On January 13, 2014, the Township of Ewing (Mercer County) agreed to pay $155,000 to a Trenton woman who sued members of the Ewing Police Department for allegedly beating her.
In her suit, Portia Freeman said that on March 5, 2012 Ewing Township Health Inspector Carol Martin, Animal Control Officer Rick Moore came to her home with police to serve a warrant. According to the complaint, the officials were there to investigate a complaint that Plaintiff's sister, who the officials believed was a mentally handicapped juvenile, was being left alone in the home without a working heater.
Freeman claimed that as she was calling her lawyer, Police Officer Jeffrey Caldwell told her "If you don't let us in three minutes we're going to burst the door in." When she attempted to unlock the door, Freeman claimed that she asked Caldwell, who was holding the screen door open fully, to close it a bit to prevent a dog inside of the house from running out when the interior door was opened. She claimed that Caldwell refused and dragged her down the three cement steps to the yard.
She claimed that she "could feel her head and face hit each one until [her] head hit the pavement of the walkway." She claimed that she was then kicked and punched, sprayed with mace and thrown into the back of a patrol car. She said she spent five days in the Mercer County Workhouse, the last four days in the infirmary.
Also named in the suit were Officers Christopher Boller, Jeffrey Galant, Sergeant Karl Bartowski, Officers Morris and Tettemer and Mayor Jack Ball.
The case is captioned Freeman v. Ewing, Federal Case No. 3:12-cv-01366 and Freeman's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold. Case documents are on-line here.
None of Freeman's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $155,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Ewing or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Ewing or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Freeman $155,000 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.