Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Bayonne confidentially pays $25,000 to settle former Parking Authority head's malicious prosecution lawsuit.

On April 29, 2016, the City of Bayonne (Hudson County) agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a malicious prosecution lawsuit the City's former Business Administrator and Parking Authority head filed against the City's former Law Director and its former Public Safety Director.

In his complaint, Peter J. Cresci alleged that former Public Safety Director Jason O'Donnell and former Law Director Charles D'Amico caused him to be falsely charged with theft in July 2011.  He claimed that the the charges were dismissed in August 2012 after a Grand Jury declined to issue an indictment.

Cresci accused O'Donnell and D'Amico of taking "steps to harm [his] personal and professional lives" including filing frivolous complaints against him with various state agencies, keeping tabs on his whereabouts and destroying evidential e-mails.

According to a November 13, 2015 Jersey Journal article, Cresci pleaded guilty to an unrelated fourth degree crime having to do with forging a signature on a settlement agreement.

The case is captioned Cresci v. Jason O'Donnell, et al, Federal Case No. 2:14-cv-05094 and Cresci represented himself in the matter.  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 Cresci's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Bayonne or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Cresci $25,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision 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 resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.