Monday, May 2, 2016

Perth Amboy confidentially pays $850,000 to settle excessive force and malicious prosecution lawsuit.

On April 29, 2016, the City of Perth Amboy (Middlesex County) agreed to pay $850,000 to settle a local man's lawsuit that claimed that city police used excessive force against him and that a city police officer repeatedly lied on the stand to falsely convict him.

In his suit, Edwin Rodriguez claimed that Officer Davis Salazar entered into his residence on September 5, 2013 and assaulted him and arrested him for unlawful possession of a weapon, disorderly conduct, obstruction and resisting arrest.  He claimed that Salazar wrote up an untrue police report regarding his encounter with Rodriguez and that Officers Marino Diaz and Luis Perez, although aware that the report was untrue, did nothing to intervene.

Rodriguez claimed that Salazar's "knowingly false" testimony caused him to be convicted  of disorderly conduct offenses after a May 29, 2014 municipal court trial.  These convictions, he claimed, violated the conditions of his parole in a different matter causing him to be "remanded to the New Jersey Department of Corrections" where he remained in custody until August 25, 2014.  According to the complaint, Rodriguez's May 29, 2014 municipal court conviction was reversed on appeal.

Salazar has been a Perth Amboy police officer since August 25, 2011 and remains in that position at the time of this writing.  According to City records his 2016 annual salary is $73,404.

The case is captioned Rodriguez v. City of Perth Amboy, et al, Docket No. MID-L-6473-13 and Rodriguez's attorney was Brian S. Schiller of Scotch Plains.  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 Rodriguez'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 Perth Amboy or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Rodriguez $850,000 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.