On December 1, 2009, the City of Trenton (Mercer County) agreed to pay $12,500 to a man who sued members of the Trenton Police Department for allegedly beating him and arresting him without probable cause.

In his suit, Jeffrey Bastien said that on April 23, 2006 he was in the lobby of 620 West State Street when he was “violently arrested” by Trenton Police Sergeant Benito R. Bello and other officers. He claims to have suffered “severe brusing and lacerations to his torso, face and left eye.”

The case is captioned Bastien v. Trenton, Federal Case No. 3:08-cv-2022 and Bastien’s attorney was David E. Sachs of Metuchen. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Bastien’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $12,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Trenton or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Trenton or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Bastien $12,500 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]