Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Guttenberg confidentially paid out $39,900 to settle aspiring cop's retaliation lawsuit.

On December 19, 2016, the Town of Guttenberg (Hudson County) quietly agreed to pay $39,900 to settle a lawsuit filed by an aspiring Baltimore police officer who claimed that he subjected to retaliatory criminal charges after his sister broke off a dating relationship with a Guttenberg police officer.

According to his lawsuit, Brian Dorador, who was about to be hired by the Baltimore police department, fell out of favor with members of the Guttenberg Police Department after his sister broke off a dating relationship with Officer Joseph Keselica.  According his lawsuit, "Officer Keselica resented Mr. Dorador for the break up with his sister and held a personal vendetta against him."  Dorador claimed that Officer Laura Sorio told him in early August 2011 that Keselica "was planning a scheme to set up Mr. Dorador and arrest him for impersonating a police officer and carrying a weapon."  Dorador claimed that Sorio later denied telling him this.

Fearing that an arrest would derail his police career, Dorador said that he reported the threat to Captain Joel Magenheimer.  Dorador claimed that after Magenheimer refused to process his complaint, he filed an Internal Affairs complaint with the New York Police Department where Dorador worked as an auxiliary officer.  When the NYPD notified the Guttenberg department about the complaint, Dorador claimed that retaliatory criminal charges were fabricated against him resulting in his arrest on August 15, 2011.  Dorador claimed that weapon possession charges were dismissed by the Hudson County Prosecutor and he was approved for Pretrial Intervention (PTI) for other charges over the Prosecutor's objection.

Dorador also claimed that a deliberately false report that he was armed and dangerous caused him to be pulled over by West New York officers on October 13, 2011 and that his father received "an excessive amount of tickets only a few days before [Dorador] was to be accepted into the PTI program." 

Also named in the lawsuit were Sergeants Jeff Lugo and Juan Berrera and Investigator Joseph Terello

The case is captioned Dorador v. Town of Guttenberg, et al, Federal Case No. 2:13-cv-05696 and Dorador's attorney was Louis A. Zayas of North Bergen. 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 Guttenberg or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Dorador $39,900 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.