Friday, August 19, 2016

Atlantic City to confidentially pay $75,000 to man who said that city police "brutally beat" him.

On August 17, 2016, the Atlantic City (Atlantic County) Council, by a 7 to 2 vote, approved a $75,000 settlement to resolve a lawsuit brought by an Essex County man who said that he was beaten and falsely arrested by police after a bouncer removed him from a casino nightclub.

In his lawsuit, Anthony Bocchino said that on August 12, 2012 he was removed from Harrah's Pool After Dark nightclub "after a nonviolent word exchange with a bouncer."  He said that he then encountered officers Donnell Holland and James Mittenberger who "brutally beat" him and "falsely charged him with aggravated assault."

The case is captioned Bocchino v. City of Atlantic City, et al Federal Case No. 14-cv-00233 and Bocchino's attorney was Timothy J. McIlwain of Linwood.  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 lawsuit'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 Atlantic City or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Bocchino $75,000 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.