In May 2009, three men–Joseph Spears, Vincent McWilliams and Rodney Thomas–each accepted $15,000 as full settlement of their civil rights lawsuit against the City of Atlantic City, the City of Absecon, their police departments, Atlantic City Police Officers Daniel Corcoran, Mark Pincus and Stephen Rando and Absecon Police Officers Kevin Craig and Raymond Adams.

In their lawsuit, filed on May 16, 2008, the three men allege that on June 10, 2006, Pincus, based on information received from Corcoran and Rando, radioed a police dispatcher that the three men were suspected of having committed a crime even though the none of the officers had attempted match the trio’s descriptions to those of the actual suspects. According to the complaint, this radio transmission would cause the men to “be arrested utilizing swat unit techniques or a high profile motor vehicle stop.” The men allege that they were later stopped and arrested and that excessive force was used against them.

The case is captioned Spears et al v. Corcoran et al, Case No. ATL-L-1428-08. The trio’s lawyer was Alan M. Lands of Pleasantville. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of the trio’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $45,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the officers. All that is known for sure is that Atlantic City, Absecon and perhaps their insurers, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay $45,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the 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 Atlantic City and Absecon 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]