Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pleasantville pays $45,000 to settle police false arrest suit

On March 22, 2013, the City of Pleasantville (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $45,000 to a Vineland man who sued members of the Pleasantville Police Department for allegedly arresting him without probable cause and continuing to prosecute him even after they knew he wasn't guilty.

In his suit, Tyrone Mozelle said that on August 4, 2010, he was visiting his elderly parents when someone had entered a neighboring apartment and stole $70.  He claims that even though a surveillance video "clearly undermines" any accusation that he was the thief, Pleasantville police arrested him for 3rd Degree Burglary and held him under $25,000 bail.  Unable to post bail, Mozelle claimed that he was held in jail for six months.  He stated that even though the police knew better, they "intentionally made misstatements in their reports" and "persisted in the prosecution" of him. According to the lawsuit, the court ultimately dismissed all charges against him.

Named in the suit were Pleasantville Police Chief Duane N. Comeaux, Mayor Jesse L. Tweedle, Sr., Detective Steven V. Sample and Patrolmen Charlie L. Ellis, Michael Gazo and Norman Dennis.

The case is captioned Mozelle v. Pleasantville, Federal Case No. 12-cv-01700 and Mozelle's attorney was Reza Mazaheri of New York.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Mozelle's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $45,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Pleasantville or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Pleasantville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Mozelle $45,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Plainfield and Fanwood pay $103,000 to settle civil rights suit filed by former Plainfield judge.

In early 2012, the City of Plainfield and Borough of Fanwood (Union County) agreed to pay $103,000 to a former municipal court judge who claimed her civil rights were violated.  Plainfield paid $100,000 and Fanwood paid $3,000.

In her suit, Paulette Brown said that on November 12, 2006, she was arrested by police in Fanwood for a warrant that was erroneously issued on June 6, 2001 by the Plainfield Municipal Court.  Brown claims that the warrant arose out of a criminal trespass matter that had been dismissed on September 22, 1997.  She further claims that she was never notified that the warrant had issued.

Even though she claimed that the warrant was invalid, the arresting office, named Santiago, allegedly "pulled [her] from her vehicle and transported her to the Fanwood police station where she was photographed and processed."  She further claims to have been held at the station for several hours and that Plainfield gave her a difficult time recalling the warrant even though court personnel had admitted that the warrant was invalid.

The case is captioned Brown v. Plainfield, Union County Superior Court Docket No. UNN-L-3943-08 and Brown's attorney was Michael A. Armstrong of Willingboro.  Case documents are on-line here.

Fanwood's settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Brown's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $103,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Plainfield, Fanwood or any of their officials. All that is known for sure is that Plainfield and Fanwood, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Brown $103,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Ocean City pays $60,000 to settle police dog bite case.

On April 19, 2013, the City of Ocean City (Cape May County) agreed to pay $60,000 to a local man who sued members of the Ocean City Police Department for allegedly having a police dog unnecessarily bite him in the groin.

In his suit, Jeffrey Moyer said that on September 3, 2009, Sergeant John Mazzuca and Officer John Vogt brought their police canine, Deuce, to his home on a reported disturbance.  Moyer claimed that even though he had no weapons and was not acting in a violent or threatening manner, Deuce was turned loose on him and bit him in the groin causing "severe injury."

The case is captioned Moyer v. Ocean City, Cape May Superior Court Docket No. L-773-10 and Moyer's attorney was Joseph C. Grassi of Wildwood.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Moyer's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $60,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Ocean City or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Ocean City or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Moyer $60,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

North Bergen school board pays $7,500 to settle wrongful discharge suit

On November 23, 2011, the Board of Education of North Bergen (Hudson County) agreed to pay $7,500 to a local man who sued the school board for firing him and his girlfriend in order to retaliate against his mother

In his suit, Jeffrey Saavedra said he and his girlfriend, Jessica Rivera, were both fired from their jobs because school board officials, specifically Robert M. Kornberg, Katherine Somick and City Councilman Edward Somick, sought to retaliate against his mother, Ivonne Saavedra for complaining about alleged legal violations committed by the school district.

The settlement is with Jeffrey only, even though Ivonne is named as a plaintiff in the suit.  Ivonne was dismissed from this suit and has her own suit under Federal Case No. 2:12-cv-06080.

The case is captioned Saavedra v. North Bergen, Hudson County Superior Court Docket No. L-6014-09 and Saavedra's attorney was Maurice W. McLaughlin of Totowa.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Saavedra's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $7,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by North Bergen or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that North Bergen or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Saavedra $7,500 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Voorhees pays $60,000 to settle police false arrest/malicious prosecution suit

On June 15, 2011, the Township of Voorhees (Camden County) agreed to pay $60,000 to a local man who sued members of the Voorhees Police Department for allegedly arresting him without probable cause because he "needed an education."

In his suit, Michael Sebastian, Jr. said that on June 12, 2007, the day after he was arrested for contempt of court after having been found guilty of a traffic violation, he needed police assistance regarding an attempted burglary at his home.  The officers who responded, Carlos Garcia-Lazar and Anthony Rusterucci, questioned him as to what he would do if he found an intruder in his home.  After Sebastian responded that he would use all necessary force, including deadly force, the officers allegedly told him that use of force wouldn't be appropriate if the intruder was a police officer serving a warrant.  Sebastian said that he explained to the officers that he did not mean that he would use force against an officer, rather that he understood the question to be limited to illegal, unidentified intruders.

According to the complaint, the two officers consulted with Lieutenant Francis Bialeki and Sergeant Robert Woolston who caused a warrant to be issued charging Sebastian with "making a terroristic threat to kill a township official."  Thereafter, about a dozen police officers came to Sebastian's home, arrested him and took him to the police station where he was allegedly denied access to an attorney and detained and questioned for five hours.  Sebastian claimed that Officer Richard Monahan told him that that the arrest was precipitated by his actions in the municipal court the previous day.

Monahan alleged that the Camden County Prosecutor's Office declined to indict him for the terroristic threats charge and that the matter was returned to municipal court for disposition.  The municipal court ultimately dismissed the charges after police officers failed to appear to testify on the State's behalf.

Also named in the suit were Voorhees Police Officers Daniel Starks and Lance Klein.

The case is captioned Sebastian v. Voorhees, Federal Case No. 1:08-cv-06097 and Sebastian's attorney was William H. Buckman of Moorestown.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Sebastian's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $60,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Voorhees or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Voorhees or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Sebastian $60,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fairfield pays $72,500 to settle racial harassment lawsuit

On October 29, 2010, the Township of Fairfield (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $72,500 to a African-American man who sued Fairfield Township for allegedly wrongfully discharging him from Township employment.

In his suit, Wayne Thomas Byrd, who had been employed by the Township since 2004, said that he had been consistently harassed, belittled and called racial slurs by co-worker William Ridgeway who Byrd claimed to be "very well politically connected and . . . good friends with the [then] business administrator of the township, one Richard DeVillasanta."

Byrd said that he suffered a heart attack in May 2007 and returned to work on September 8, 2008, after a long period of recovery.  When he returned to work, he claimed he was only on the job for an hour and a half before being told to leave.  Being told to leave, according to the complaint, "effectuated a discharge for all practical purposes."

Byrd claims that he repeatedly complained about Ridgeway to Nathan Dunn, his supervisor, and then mayor Marion Kennedy, Jr., but they would only "talk to Ridgeway" which would cause him to "soften his harassment for a short period of time."

The case is captioned Byrd v. Fairfield, Cumberland County Superior Court Docket No. CUM-L-1027-08 and Byrd's attorney was Kevin M. Costello of Cherry Hill.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Byrd's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $72,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Fairfield or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Fairfield or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Byrd $72,500 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

NJ Department of Human Services pays $10,000 to settle whistleblower suit

On January 31, 2012, the New Jersey Department of Human Services agreed to pay $10,000 to a Millville woman who sued the Vineland Developmental Center for allegedly retaliating against her after she reported "patient abuse and neglect."

In her suit, Yolanda Howard said that during 2009, she reported various rule infractions to her supervisors.  Her reporting, she claims, resulted in "a barrage of retaliatory and harassing actions [including] a brief period of unemployment from March 6, 2009 through April 11, 2009."

The case is captioned Howard v. State of New Jersey, Cumberland County Superior Court Docket No. CUM-L-256-10 and Howard's attorney was Alan J. Cohen of Northfield.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Howard's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $10,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Human Services or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Human Services or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Howard $10,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

High Bridge pays $81,250 to settle police excessive force suit

On October 28, 2011, the Borough of High Bridge (Hunterdon County) agreed to pay $81,250 to a local woman who sued an officer of the High Bridge Police Department for allegedly applying excessive for upon her.

In her suit, Barbara L. Drake of Sunset Drive said that on August 30, 2006, she received a knock on her door by Police Officer Jeffrey P. Andruczyk who was dispatched to investigate a pile of brush at the end of her driveway.  After explaining to Andruczyk that the pile would be removed the next day, Drake alleged that Andruczyk became increasing angry with her, intimidated her into allowing him into her house, demanded identification and then arrested her for obstruction of justice and resisting arrest.  During the arrest, Andruczyk allegedly roughed up Drake and "slammed her head several times against the [kitchen] countertop."  She further alleged that High Bridge Police Chief Edward K. Spinks arrived at the scene but did nothing to intervene.  According to the lawsuit, Drake was ultimately acquitted of all charges.

The case is captioned Drake v. Andruczyk, Federal Case No. 3:08-cv-04249 and Drake's attorney was Timothy J. Jaeger of Somerville.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Drake's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $81,250 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by High Bridge or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that High Bridge or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Drake $81,250 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Monday, July 8, 2013

NJ State Police pay $42,000 to settle false arrest lawsuit

On April 30, 2013, the State of New Jersey agreed to pay $42,000 to two brothers who sued two State Troopers for falsely arresting them and depriving one of them of his prescription medication.

In their suit, Kevin and Robert Menke of Mohrsville, Pennsylvania said that on June 13, 2008 they were at a convenience store in Brigantine with their vehicle parked next to an unmarked SUV occupied by State Troopers Michael Baker and Michael Stonnell, who were both in civilian clothing.

While Kevin was in the store, Robert, who was sitting in the car, was allegedly accused by the Troopers of "looking" at Baker.  The brothers allege that when Kevin came out of the store, the argument was still going on with neither brother knowing that Baker and Stonnell were police officers.  As the brothers were attempting to exit the parking lot in their vehicle, Baker and Stonnell allegedly continued to harass them and questioned them about whether they were selling drugs.

At this point, the brothers got out of their vehicle and approached the SUV.  When Kevin asked Baker and Stonnell whether they were police officers, Baker allegedly showed his handgun to him.  Upon seeing the gun, and still not realizing that the men were police officers, Robert called 911 on his cell phone. While placing the call, Robert claims that Stonnell pointed his gun at him and arrested him.

The Troopers allegedly confiscated Kevin's medication and wouldn't return it to him despite being told that he needed to take it to stay well.  Kevin allegedly told the Troopers that they could call his physician who would confirm that it was critical for him to take his medication.  According to the complaint, the Troopers would not call the physician resulting in Kevin becoming ill and being taken to the hospital.  At this point, the Troopers finally contacted the physician who confirmed that the medication was necessary to prevent Kevin from experiencing serious discomfort.

Baker and Stonnell charged the brothers with disorderly conduct and unlawful possession of a controlled dangerous substance.  All charges were dropped except that Kevin pled guilty to a municipal ordinance violation.

Also named in the suit was the City of Brigantine which was later dismissed from the suit.

The case is captioned Kevin and Robert Menke v. Michael Baker et al, Federal Case No. 1:10-cv-02585 and the Menkes' attorney was Anthony M. Anastasio of Lawrenceville.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Menkes' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $42,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by State of New Jersey or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that State of New Jersey or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the brothers $42,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.