On January 8, 2009, the City of Elizabeth (Union County) agreed to pay $5,000 to an Elizabeth man who had sued the City claiming that Elizabeth police officers used excessive force against him.

In his complaint, Plaintiff Maurice McCullers claimed that patrol officers Vazquez and Beltran, while arresting him on April 8, 2006, unnecessarily threw him on the ground causing him to be injured. (There are no first names for the officers listed in the lawsuit.)

The matter is captioned McCullers v. City of Elizabeth et al, Civil No. 08-cv-02929. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here. McCullers was represented by Robert J. Cardpnsky of Elizabeth.

None of McCullers’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $5,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Elizabeth or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that defendants and their insurers, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay the McCullers $5,000 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.

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