Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Roselle Park secretly pays $35,000 to settle police illegal search lawsuit

On June 17, 2014, the Borough of Roselle Park (Union County) agreed to pay $35,000 to three men who jointly sued members of the Roselle Park Police Department for lying about having a search warrant and illegally entering a dwelling.

In their claims, Phillip Szabo, James Redington and Mark Salerno said that on December 9, 2012 Roselle Park Police Officers Alexander Lanza, Gregory Polakoski, Vathianakis Kostantinos Peter Picarelli and Michael Bell gained entry to a home "by a deliberate and blatant lie to the effect that said officers were armed with a search warrant, which subsequent discovery proved beyond all reasonable doubt was completely false."  The event was allegedly captured on video.

According to the claims, Szabo was arrested for a marijuana possession claim which was later dismissed.  Of the $35,000, $25,000 went to Szabo and $5,000 went to each Redington and Salerno.

The case is captioned Szabo, Redington and Salerno v. Roselle Park, Federal Case No. 2:13-cv-05022 and Szabo, Redington and Salerno were represented by Ronald Esposito of Union.  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 Szabo, Redington and Salerno's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $35,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Roselle Park or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Roselle Park or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Szabo, Redington and Salerno $35,000 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.