Wednesday, September 24, 2014

State pays $5,000 to settle State Trooper excessive force suit.

On April 28, 2014, the New Jersey State Police agreed to pay $5,000 to an African-American man who claimed that State Troopers maced, beat and directed racial slurs at him.

In his suit, Twann Hamilton said that on June 23, 2009, he was stopped by State Troopers Craig Kempinski and Robert Sickles in Bedminster Township, Somerset County. When Hamilton asked the Troopers "If I am not under arrest, why should I get out of my car?" he alleged that he was maced, pulled out of the car and had his head slammed into the pavement.  While this was happening, he claimed that one of the Troopers said "stupid n-----, see what you get."  Also named in the suit were Troopers Kesene (Mowatt) Grier and Gary Monterosso who Hamilton claimed also participated in the event.

The case is captioned Hamilton v. State, Docket No. SOM-L-974-11 and Hamilton's attorney was Jamison M. Mark of Basking Ridge.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Hamilton's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $5,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by State or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that State or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Hamilton $5,000 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.