On August 11, 2009, a Camden County man accepted $12,000 as full settlement of his lawsuit arising out of his Friday, March 31, 2006 arrest and incarceration by members of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department. The man, Richard Bailo of Voorhees, claimed in his March 28, 2008 lawsuit that he was arrested on a child support warrant that he said was issued in error. Although he was told he would be taken to the probation department to resolve the error, he alleges that he was instead taken to Warren County Correctional Facility where he, and other arrestees, were were chained to a bench “without intake for approximately four hours” while the correctional officers “ate and read magazines.”

Bailo claims that his troubles intensified after he objected to the treatment another inmate received after asking to be unchained so that he could use the restroom. According to the suit, the inmate “soiled his clothing” after officers denied him use of the restroom and told him to “go ahead and pee in your pants.”

Bailo claims that after he objected to the treatment his fellow arrestee received, a Caucasian female officer “with red curly hair” accused him of being “a real hard ass” and moved the other arrestees into another room. At that point, Bailo claims, officers placed his right hand behind his head, pushed him face down to the floor and handcuffed him while one officer stood on his back. Then, Bailo claims, Sheriff Officer Pablo Sanchez and Jonathan Danberry lifted him and “threw him head first” through a doorway, which caused his left knee to strike the steel corner of a bed. He states that he “heard a snap in his left knee” but was denied medical attention–except for being given two aspirins.

Bailo further claims that he was not allowed to use the telephone until the evening of Saturday, April 1st, which was more than 24 hours after his arrest. Ultimately, he claims, he was held until Monday morning when officers told him “that there had been a mistake at the court house, that he was no longer under arrest and that he did not have to appear in front of a judge.” He claims to have suffered “a torn meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament” in his knee.

The case is captioned Bailo v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of Warren County, Case No. 08-cv-1555-JAP. Bailo’s lawyer was Dennis M. Abrams of Cherry Hill. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Bailo’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $12,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the County or the its jail officials. All that is known for sure is that Warren County, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Bailo and their lawyer $12,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Warren County’s 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 Warren County 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.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]