On October 31, 2011, the Township of North Brunswick (Middlesex County) agreed to pay $30,000 to a local couple who sued members of the North Brunswick Police Department for allegedly falsely arresting one of them and applying excessive force to both.

In their suit, Natalya Yermakova and Michael Boksner said that on September 14, 2007, they were driving on Route 1 when North Brunswick Police Officer Myron O. Cox directed them to pull over into a parking lot.  When Officer Cordell Harris approached the car, Boksner, who was the driver, asked him why he was pulled over.  In response to Boksner’s question, Harris allegedly responded because he was driving on the shoulder.  When Boksner protested that he was merely following Cox’s instruction, Harris allegedly threatened to write him a summons for “obstructed view.” 

Yermakova, who was seated in the back seat next to her infant child, then allegedly exited the vehicle and asked Harris for an explanation for the traffic stop.  According to the suit, Harris’ response was “belligerent” and “provided her no details surrounding the traffic stop.” 

The suit alleges that Cox then pushed Boksner, who had also exited the vehicle, into the vehicle’s door, causing injury, and “forcefully pulled [Yermakova] out of the car, causing her eyeglasses to fall from her face.”  When Yermakova pleaded with the officers to watch out for her glasses, Cox allegedly “intentionally stepped on” them, “twisted [Yermakova’s] left arm behind her back and threw [her] onto the rear driver’s side of the vehicle.”  Cox then allegedly handcuffed Yermakova and placed her in a patrol car.  Yermakova allegedly pleaded with the officers “to let her go since her child needed to be breast fed.”

Police charged Yermakova with aggravated assault, obstruction of justice, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct and lodged her in the Middlesex County Workhouse.  They issued Boksner a summons for improper passing.  According to the lawsuit, all charges against Yermakova were dismissed because “the arresting officers failed to appear in municipal court on numerous occasions.”  The motor vehicles summons was also allegedly dismissed.

The case is captioned Yermakova and Boksner v. North Brunswick, New Jersey Superior Court Docket No. MID-L-7508-09 and Yermakova’s and Boksner’s attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Yermakova’s and Boksner’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $30,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by North Brunswick or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that North Brunswick or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Yermakova and Boksner $30,000 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]