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On August 21, 2018, the Township of Belleville (Essex County) agreed to pay $235,000 and provide lifetime health benefits to settle a lawsuit filed by the Township's former court administrator who claimed that her co-workers created a sexually hostile workplace and that one of them "intentionally expose[d] her breast to [her] and excreted breast milk on her."

In her lawsuit, Cheryl Jeannette, a 30-year Township employee, said that Court Administrator Yara Acosta (Belleville's current court administrator is Yara Bossolt who may or may not be the same person) and Deputy Court Administrator Roberta Almeida "openly dated Belleville police officers" and "eagerly flaunted the intimate details of their sexual relationships" during work hours.  Jeannette claimed that Acosta's and Almeida's alleged relationships caused the Township to reward them with "preferential treatment, including selective enforcement of policies and promotions." 

After Almeida allegedly squirted her with breast milk in 2009, Jeannette claimed that Almeida was "hardly disciplined" for the act and was permitted "to serve her discipline at her convenience and, upon returning from her short suspension, transferred to the Code Enforcement Department and subsequently transferred back to the Municipal Court and promoted to Acting Deputy Court Administrator."  Similarly, Jeannette claimed that Acosta was afforded "special favoritism" when she was disciplined for allegedly conducting an improper background check on a co-worker.  According to the lawsuit, Acosta was "allowed . . . to serve this suspension with pay during her maternity leave in 2011, and promoted to Deputy Court Administrator upon her return."

Jeanette claimed that the Township administration retaliated against her for assisting in the investigations of Almeida and Acosta by reducing her salary.  When she complained about the "groundless salary reduction," then Township Manager Victor Canning told her that "if she were to continue voicing grievances to anyone, she would never be promoted to Municipal Court Administrator on a permanent basis."  Jeannette claimed that she kept her mouth shut and was later made the permanent Court Administrator.

Jeannette claimed that Almeida and Acosta refused to take direction from her, despite her supervisory role, and conducted a "campaign of hostility" toward her.  They called her a "'puta' which loosely translates to 'slut' or 'whore' in Spanish" and Almeida allegedly told Jeannette repeatedly that she was going to perform sexual acts on Jeanette's young son.

Jeannette claimed that on February 15, 2013, Almeida "filed a bogus complaint of racial discrimination and harassment against [her]" which resulted in then Township Manager Kevin M. Esposito filing formal charges against her after "he conducted a shoddy, one-sided, cursory investigation," according to the lawsuit.  Jeannette alleged that she was immediately suspended without pay.  Jeannette said that after a three-day hearing in February and March 2014, the Township's hearing officer sustained a charge of "conduct unbecoming" against her and recommended a 180-day suspension and a demotion.  The Township accepted the recommendation but increased her demotion to four levels below court administrator, according to the lawsuit.

Jeannette claimed that she resigned on September 2, 2014 "as she could not continue to work in the hostile environment created by Ms. Almeida and Ms. Acosta." 

The case is captioned Jeannette v. Township of Belleville, et al, Superior Court Docket No. ESX-L-1245-15 and Jeannette's attorney was Gina Mendola Langarzo of Chatham.  Case documents are on-line here.

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 Belleville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Jeannette $235,000 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.
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On December 3, 2018, the Township of Bedminster (Somerset County) agreed to pay $450,000 to a police officer the Township Committee voted to suspend with pay on October 2, 2017.  Of the $450,000, $150,000 was paid by the Township and the other $300,000 was paid by the Township's insurance carrier.

In his lawsuit, John A. Dapkins, Jr., a 16-year veteran of the Bedminster Police Department, brought a litany of claims against the Township's police department and Sergeants Nanci Arraial and Chief Karl Rock.  According to his lawsuit, Dapkins, who said that he had extensive firearms training, claimed that he resigned his Firearms Instructor position after being "forced" to certify Arraial and two other officers as being proficient in Use of Force and Self-Defense "even though they were not capable of completing the standard."  Arraial allegedly became the Firearms Instructor in 2014, even though the then police chief knew "that she wasn't qualified to assume such duties," according to the lawsuit. Dapkins claimed that "Arraial was teaching the wrong instruction courses and was not qualified to do so."

Dapkins claimed that after his complaints to his supervisor, Chief Karl Rock, were ignored, he brought his complaints that "Arraial did fraudulently qualify multiple members of the Bedminster Police Department from 2014 to the Fall of 2016" to the Internal Affairs unit which referred them to the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office.  He said that the Prosecutor's Office validated his complaints by requiring the Police Department to requalify everyone.  According to Dapkins' lawsuit, "Arraial [received] overtime monies to complete the qualifications she improperly performed in the first place."

Dapkins also claimed that Rock told him "to go no further" pursuing the Department's alleged failure to complete the correct radar training "since it could void summonses, open the town to civil suits and bad press."  Dapkins further accused Arraial of slandering him by "describing untrue homosexual acts between [Dapkins] and Detective Sergeant Smith of the Bernardsville Police Department."  He claimed that Arraial repeatedly acted in a sexually hostile manner and once made "sexually explicit comments about [another officer's] penis" and replicated "a sexual act to Officer Greenstein in the presence of children from the Bedminster elementary school on a school-sponsored trip to Dorney Park, PA."

Dapkins claimed that after his repeated complaints were ignored by the chain of command, he went in mid-2016 to Township Administrator Judith Sullivan.  Going to Sullivan, he claimed, resulted in Rock issuing a retaliatory directive.  Many more allegations are recited in the lengthy lawsuit.

Also named in the lawsuit were Rock, Sergeant Francesco Bernardo and Robert Verry.  Verry, a former South Bound Brook Police Chief, was hired by the Township to conduct an investigation regarding internal affairs complaints filed against Dapkins.  Dapkins claimed that Verry "is a known friend of" Rock and that his report, which caused Dapkins' suspension, was "replete with innuendo, false statements, unsupported allegations, misrepresentations of fact, and . . . flagrant omissions" and "can be concluded to be the result of a conspiracy between" Verry and Township officials.  Verry filed a cross-claim against the Township and is presently seeking to recover his legal fees because "the Township wrongfully refused to defend" him from Dapkins' lawsuit.

As part of the settlement, Dapkins agreed not to disparage Bedminster or any of its officials and not to "seek any publicity or make any statement to the media" regarding this lawsuit except to say that "The matter was resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned."  The Township agreed to dismiss "any and all pending disciplinary charges against Dapkins."

According to a December 10, 2018 e-mail from Bedminster Clerk Judith A. Sullivan, Dapkins, who was hired by the Township on April 16, 2002, earned a 2018 salary of $114,002.38.

The case is captioned Dapkins v. Township of Bedminster et al, Somerset County Superior Court Docket No. SOM-L-1298-16 and Dapkins was represented by Robert B. Woodruff of Scotch Plains. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here

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 Bedminster and its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay $450,000 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.
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On September 12, 2018, the Borough of Roseland (Essex County) quietly agreed to pay $110,000 to three of six officers who sued the Borough's police chief in 2014, to promote to lieutenant two sergeants who had sued and to pay the officers' attorney $215,000.  As part of the settlement deal, the two newly promoted lieutenants agreed to resign one year after their promotions.  One of the officers who sued, however, appears to have received no benefit from the settlement.

In their lawsuit, Sergeants Terry West and Charles Ribaudo, Officers Joseph LaPosta and Glenn Carnevale, retired officer Kevin Donaldson and former officer Freddie L. Mitchell, Jr. claimed that they suffered under Chief Richard McDonough and Captain Kevin Kitchin.  They claim that McDonough managed the police department through "fear and intimidation," showered favors upon officers "who obey[ed] his every whim" and continuously harassed and retaliated against those who questioned or disagreed with him.

Specifically, the six officers claimed that McDonough used on-duty police officers and vehicles to run personal errands for him, smoked cigarettes in the building in violation of state law, "engaged in a very questionable relationship with his administrative assistant [who] supposedly works from home and has been given a Department computer," allowed his friends to use Borough generators during Hurricane Sandy, fixed traffic and parking tickets, misled the public about the Borough's crime statistics, stopped or hindered investigations into alleged crimes committed by family members of political allies, registered his daughter's car in Florida even though she resided in New Jersey and housed his own personal dog on Borough property.

McDonough and Kitchin allegedly "utilize[d] Internal Affairs as a tool of terror, and to create paper trails of specious disciplinary claims against officers they do not like."  The six officers claimed that McDonough and Kitchin "subjected [them] to a continuing pattern of retaliation and discriminatory practices." Mitchell, who claimed to have been wrongfully terminated from the police department, further claimed that he was discriminated against "on the basis of race."

In their lawsuit, the six officers referred to McDonough as a "megalomaniacal despot" and to Kitchin as McDonough's "submissive minion [who] follows McDonough like a 'trained puppy.'"

As part of the settlement, the Borough agreed to promote West and Ribaudo to the rank of lieutenant provided that they both resign one year after the date they are promoted and to work the afternoon and overnight shifts.  The Borough also agreed to pay $325,000 in settlement funds apportioned as follows: $215,000 to the officers' attorney, $50,000 to Carnevale and $30,000 each to Donaldson and LaPosta.

The case is captioned Terry West, et al v. Borough of Roseland et al, Essex County Superior Court Docket No. ESX-L-7620-14 and the six officers' attorney was Patrick P. Toscano, Jr. of Caldwell. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.  A news story published when the lawsuit was filed is 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 Roseland or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay $325,000 and promote the two sergeants 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.

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On June 29, 2018, the City of Absecon (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $85,000 to the manager of a Whitehorse Pike motel who claimed that police pepper sprayed him and broke his shoulder when he told them that they weren't doing their jobs.

In his lawsuit, Rohit B. Surti, manager of the Budget Inn 4 U motel, expressed dissatisfaction with Absecon Police Officer Kevin Craig's decision to not take any action against a motel guest that Surti had called police to complain about.  When Craig told Surti that Absecon Police are often dispatched to the Budget Inn and were "tired" of going there,  Surti told Craig that he should "do [his] job," according to the complaint.

Surti's comment allegedly infuriated Craig who, according to the lawsuit, "sprayed Mr. Surti with pepper spray in the eyes [and] moved the canister back and forth horizontally several times across Mr. Surti's eyes."  Officer Laura Winkel, who had been standing behind Surti while he was being pepper sprayed, allegedly "grabbed Mr. Surti's arms and forcefully pulled them behind his back [and] forced Mr. Surti from a standing position to the prone position, without buffering, onto the asphalt parking lot of the motel . . . causing a dislocation and fracture of Mr. Surti's left shoulder and left arm."  The incident occurred on June 18, 2013.

When Surti complained of severe pain in his arm while at the police station, Craig allegedly told him "not to be dramatic."

According to a February 16, 2018 opinion by United States District Court Judge Robert B. Kugler, Winkel had given Surti a summons about an hour prior to the alleged excessive force incident for having stolen shopping carts from the Dollar Store on his motel premises.  Craig and Winkel then returned to the motel in response to a call about a disturbance between Surti and a six-week resident at the motel.  Winkel wrote in her report that Surti, who Craig alleged had the odor of alcohol on his breath, was yelling at the guest from across the parking lot and was repeatedly told to lower his voice because the commotion was causing other motel residents to come out of their rooms.

According to Judge Kugler's opinion, Surti pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and harassment charges against him were dismissed.  Surti was joined in the lawsuit by his wife Jayshri R. Surti.

The case is captioned Surti v. Absecon Police Department, et al, Federal Case No. 1:15-cv-03949 and Surti's attorney was Robert D. Herman of Linwood. Case documents and Judge Kugler's opinion 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 Absecon or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Surti $85,000 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.

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On August 8, 2018, the Perth Amboy (Middlesex County) City Council resolved to pay $125,000 to a now retired police officer who said that he was subjected to racial slurs and racial discrimination.

In his lawsuit, Stephen Petrosino, who described himself as being "of African-American and Caucasian decent [sic]," claimed that other Perth Amboy police officers called him "half-breed" at least once a week since he started working as a City police officer in 1992.  Petrosino alleged that "Sgt. Montalvo" (presumably Sergeant Andy Montalvo) would call him a "thumbprint" during roll call and "blacky black" on other occasions.  Other officers, who were overwhelmingly Caucasian, according to the lawsuit, would join in when Montalvo would call Petrosino derogatory names during roll call.

"Lt. Killane" (presumably Lieutenant Steve Killane) allegedly told Petrosino, in response to his complaints about Montalvo's comments, that "one day [Petrosino] was white and that the next day [Petrosino] was black."

Petrosino claimed that other officers placed "pictures of two of the Little Rascals, specifically Buckwheat and Stymie, . . . with captions stating that it was Officer Petrosino and Officer Rogers, an officer of African-American decent [sic]."

Petrosino retired in 2017 and collects a $64,279 "special" pension annually, according to DataUniverse.  His final salary for the City was $107,880.

The case is captioned Petrosino v. Perth Amboy Police Department, et al, Docket No. MID-L-442-16 and Petrosino's attorney was Kevin M. Costello of Mount Laurel. 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 Perth Amboy or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Petrosino $125,000 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.

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On August 20, 2018, the City of Vineland (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $425,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a police detective who claimed that he was retaliated against for reporting another detective's alleged act of warning a fugitive that undercover police officers were going to search his residence.

In his lawsuit, Richard Burke said he discovered evidence that Detective Shane Harris "hindered a fugitive investigation by warning the fugitives that Vineland police officers were outside [the fugitive's] residence and described their undercover cars to the fugitive as well as providing advice to the fugitive to refuse a search of his residence."  Burke claimed that he later learned that "Harris' daughter was dating one of the fugitives involved in the investigation and that her vehicle was used to flee from Vineland Police Officers [and that one of the fugitives attempted] to strike Sergeant Steven Triantos with Detective Harris' daughter's vehicle."  He also claimed that Harris' mother hid the fugitive in her home.

Despite reporting his findings to his superiors, including Captain Rudolph Beu, Captain Thomas Ulrich, Sergeant Steven Triantos and Sergeant Leonard Wolf, Burke claimed that no action was taken against Harris.  Rather, Uhrich "threatened to suspend [Burke] if he continued to complain about Harris' conduct," according to the lawsuit.

Burke said that his efforts to hold Harris accountable led to a "steady barrage of retaliation" from his superiors including being demoted, being denied sick time and personal days, having his car taken away and being called "a rat."

As part of the settlement, Burke agreed to "retire his position as an officer with the City of Vineland Police Department effective August 31, 2018 due to work related disability injury."

The case is captioned Burke v. City of Vineland, Cumberland County Superior Court Docket No. CUM-L-649-15 and Burke's attorney was Louis Barbone of Atlantic City.  The complaint and settlement agreement 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 Vineland or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Burke $425,000 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.
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In a July 16, 2018 "Full and Final Release Agreement," the Borough of Lavallette (Ocean County) agreed to pay its Zoning Official and Code Enforcement Officer $9,396.00 (which is "three (3) months of regular hours of work as salary"), less tax deductions, plus an additional $2,958.50 for accrued vacation and personal days in order to resolve "all disputed claims involving certain disciplinary charges" against the official.  The agreement does not specify the nature of the allegations upon which the charges were based and specifically states that the payment "is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing."

As his part of the agreement, Gary Royer, the former Borough official  who received the settlement payments, agreed to submit an irrevocable letter of resignation, effective June 28, 2018, from his Lavallette positions of Zoning Official and Code Enforcement Officer as well as other positions he held in the Borough of Seaside Park. 

Both Royer and the Borough agreed to "not discuss this settlement with anyone except to say that it has been resolved to the satisfaction" of both parties.  The Borough also agreed to tell prospective employers only that Royer had "resigned in good standing."
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On June 1, 2018, the New Jersey Department of Corrections agreed to pay $35,000 to a female inmate who said that she was groped and sexually assaulted by male prison guards.

In her suit, Christine Bernat, an inmate at the Hunterdon County-based Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, claimed that Senior Corrections Officer Erick Melgar "sexually assaulted" her by "groping her, pinching her nipples, kissing her, having her position herself in a sexual way, having her perform oral sex, and having her engage in unprotected intercourse."  He also allegedly threw ice at her and hit her with a ruler.

Bernat also claimed that Melgar was assisted by fellow Corrections Officer Janette Bennett who acted as a look-out when Melgar was in an inmate's cell.  According to Bernat's summary judgment opposition brief, Bennett "would laugh when assisting Melgar and would comment 'this is great, we get paid for this.'"

Bernat said that Edna Mahon Administrator William Hauck and other officials knew that Melgar was having sexual contact with female inmates prior to Bernat's 2009 arrival at the facility but failed to take preventative action.  Hauck vehemently denied this and claimed that the first he knew of any alleged sexual assaults was when he was notified by a staff psychologist.  He said that upon notification he immediately reassigned Melgar to another unit and began termination proceedings that ultimately resulted in Melgar's and Bennett's firing.

After Melgar was reassigned, Sergeant Jeffrey S. Ellis allegedly transmitted Melgar's messages to Bernat and Bennett allegedly convinced other inmates to make positive statements about Melgar in order to interfere with an investigation into Melgar's alleged conduct

Bernat claimed that her reporting of the incidents caused prison officials, including Sergeant Lance Johnson, to retaliate against her.  She alleged that Johnson told her that she would have to "take Officer Melgar's [censored word] out of her mouth" if she wanted the harassment to stop.

Also during Melgar's reassignment, Senior Corrections Officer Alfred E. Smalls allegedly "sexually assaulted" Bernat by kissing her and grabbing her breasts in a private bathroom reserved for correction officers.  Smalls then allegedly bribed Bernat "with prison perks and contraband."

Document filed with Bernat's lawsuit include a July 2013 Appellate Division decision  that upheld Smalls' December 30, 2010 termination from Edna Mahan. According to the decision, the main witness against Smalls was a female inmate identified only by her initials "C.B."  C.B. said that she kissed Smalls in an "officer's bathroom . . . where Smalls grabbed her breast."  She said that there were four incidents where the pair kissed and that she "made a joke out of" smelling like Smalls' cologne after one of the kissing incidents.  She said that Smalls gave her tobacco products that she sold to other inmates.

Smalls denied C.B.'s allegations and pointed to "a prior false allegations" that C.B. had made,  but Administrative Law Judge Laura Sanders found it "to have little probative weight."  Ultimately, Judge Sanders found C.B.'s credibility to be greater than Small's and recommended his removal.  The Civil Service Commission, over Small's objections, agreed and terminated Small's employment.

The case is captioned Bernat v. New Jersey Department of Corrections, et al, Federal Case No. 3:12-cv-02649 and Bernat's attorney was Jeffrey S. Mandel of Morristown.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Bernat's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that the $35,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Department of Corrections or any of its officials.  (Note: According to the release, Melgar, Bennett and Smalls, in their individual capacities, were not released from Bernat's lawsuit.) All that is known for sure is that Ocean or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Bernat $35,000 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.
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On July 27, 2017, the Borough of Buena (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $125,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a Buena Vista Township man who claimed that two Borough officers roughed him up during a traffic stop and were laughing when he lay bleeding on the ground.

In his lawsuit, Warren J. Morris said that he was driving his car through Buena Vista Township on June 20, 2014 when he was stopped by Buena Borough police officers Sean Griffith and Jacob Apostle.  Morris said that he was fearful when the officers approached his car "because he did not know who these individuals were, they at no time identified themselves."  According to Morris, when he asked the officers to identify themselves, Griffin replied "It doesn't matter who we are."  Morris claimed that upon being told this, he demanded that a State Trooper be called to the scene.

Morris claimed that he was arrested for "obstruction" because he rolled his passenger window down only half way when Griffith demanded that it be rolled down all the way.  According to the lawsuit, Apostle punched Morris in the eye when he exited the vehicle in accordance with Griffith's order even though he did nothing to resist or provoke the officers.  Morris said that the punch caused him to lose consciousness and that he was dragged across the ground and pepper sprayed by Griffith.  He said that both officers were "standing behind their SUV type police vehicle laughing while working on something inside" while Morris was lying on the ground "with a good deal of blood on his right arm."

Morris was taken to the hospital where he was allegedly treated for "facial contusion, facial lacerations, subconjunctival hemorrhage to the eye, chemical conjunctivitis and a chemical burns."  He said that he was taken to the police station and given several motor vehicle moving and document-based summonses "all of which were issued without basis in fact."  Morris said that all of the charges were later dismissed by a Municipal Court Judge.

The case is captioned Morris v. Borough of Buena, et al, Atlantic County Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-1281-16 and Morris' attorney was David R. Castellani of Northfield.  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 Buena or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Morris $125,000 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.

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On April 13, 2018, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority paid $500,000 to settle a Piscataway couple's excessive force lawsuit against the New Jersey State Police.

In their complaint, Jermaine Rudd and his wife Louise Rudd claimed that on December 24, 2014, Mr. Rudd was arrested by Trooper Nitesh Patel who was assisted by other Troopers including Thomas Gamaro, Joe Villa, Oczkos Blazeg, Julio Mota and Gerrad Vega.  During the arrest, the Troopers allegedly "used excessive force, assaulted, battered and otherwise violently attacked Rudd while he was in police custody."  Unfortunately, the complaint does not provide any details regarding the nature of the alleged application of excessive force. 

The minutes of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority's March 27, 2018 meeting, however, disclose that Mr. Rudd's claim arose out of a DWI motor vehicle stop on the Garden State Parkway and that Rudd claimed that Troopers used excessive force against him while he was in the back of a patrol vehicle.  Rudd also claimed that he fell in his cell at the old Bloomfield Barracks and then outside after he was released.  He claimed to have suffered a fractured left kneecap and several torn knee ligaments. 

The Authority's minutes also disclose that the video of the alleged incident in the patrol vehicle was preserved while the video from the barracks was not, leading to a potential spoliation (i.e. the intentional, reckless, or negligent withholding, hiding, altering, fabricating, or destroying of evidence relevant to a legal proceeding) claim.  According to the minutes, Troopers Gamaro, Villa and Vega were dismissed from the lawsuit but claims were still pending against Troopers Patel, Mota and Oczkos when the settlement decision was made.

Mrs. Rudd's claim is based on her "loss of services, companionship and society of her husband." Patel is also accused in the lawsuit of filing a false police report.

The case is captioned Jermaine Rudd et al, v. State of New Jersey, et al, Middlesex County Superior Court Docket No. MID-L-5884-15 and the Rudds' attorney was Adam J. Elias of Westfield.  The complaint and the release are on-line here.

None of the the Rudds' 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 the State or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the Rudds $500,000 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.

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