On November 20, 2009, Tina Marshello of Absecon, accepted $30,000 as full settlement of her civil rights lawsuit against the City of Atlantic City, its police department and Police Detective Joseph M. Rauch

Marshello’s civil lawsuit, filed on August 15, 2007, alleges that she and her friends were at the Nikki Beach nightclub at about midnight on August 21, 2005 when they attempted to walk back into the Resorts Hotel and Casino carrying a plastic water bottle. Marshello contends that the water bottle was needed by one of her friends, who was eight months pregnant and needed to remain hydrated.

A security guard allegedly called out to the group that the water bottle was not allowed, but Marshello, “assuming [the guard] was not talking to them” continued to walk. According to the complaint, the guard whistled for Detective Rauch, who responded by “barreling towards” Marshello and “attempting to tackle her to the ground while wrestling a plastic water bottle from her grip.” Rauch also reportedly dumped the contents of Marshello’s purse into a planter, arrested her for Disorderly Conduct, put the handcuffs on her too tightly and locked her up at the Atlantic City Police Station. Marshello also alleges that the criminal complaints Rauch filed against her were later dismissed.

The case is captioned Marshello v. Atlantic City, et al, Case No. 07-cv-3888. Marshello’s lawyer was Richard F. Klineburger, III of Haddonfield. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Marshello’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $30,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Rauch or any other official. All that is known for sure is that Atlantic City, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Marshello and her lawyer $30,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Atlantic City’ 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 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]