On February 2, 2010, the City of Paterson (Passaic County) agreed to pay $10,000 or perhaps $60,000 to a Totowa man who sued members of the Paterson Police Department for allegedly injuring him during an arrest.

In his suit, Carlos Colon said that on May 16, 2006 he was arrested by Police Officers D. Giles (presumably Dewayn Giles), W. Lazu (presumably Wilson Lazu), J. Bernasconi (presumably Jason D. Bernasconi), McDowell (presumably Carl L. McDowell) and Sergeant J. Wolfe (presumably Jeffrey Wolfe). He claims that the officers, while arresting him, lacerated his forehead and the rear of his head which required stitches. He also claims that the arrest exacerbated his pre-existing epilepsy.

Since there are six separate releases, each one for $10,000, it is difficult to tell if the total settlement is $10,000 or $60,000.

The case is captioned Colon v. Giles, et al, Federal Case No. 2:08-cv-03621 and Colon’s attorney was Richard G. Potter of Hackensack. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Colon’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $10,000 (or $60,000) payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Paterson or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Paterson or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Colon $10,000 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]