Monday, December 1, 2014

Berkeley secretly pays $110,000 to settle police excessive force suit.

On November 4, 2014, the Township of Berkeley (Ocean County) agreed to pay $110,000 to a Toms River man who sued members of the Berkeley Police Department for allegedly beating him while he was in a holding cell.

In his suit, Darren Yurick said that on January 27, 2013, he was arrested by Berkeley Officers Patrick J. Stesner, Jr. and Michael Tier.  He said that after being taken back to the station he "was handcuffed and subsequently assaulted with excessive force and without justification by Defendants Stesner and Tier while in a holding cell."

Also named in the suit was Berkeley Police Chief Karin DiMichele and Sergeant Kevin Santucci.

The case is captioned Yurick v. Berkeley, Federal Case No. 3:14-cv-03655 and Yurick's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  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 Yurick's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $110,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Berkeley or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Berkeley or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Yurick $110,000 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.