On July 9, 2013, the City of Paterson (Passaic County) agreed to pay $200,000 to a local woman who sued members of the Paterson Police Department for allegedly beating her and arresting her without probable cause.

In her suit, Linette Vazquez said that in the early morning hours of March 15, 2011 she and three friends were at the Egg Platter Diner when Paterson Police Officers Andre Jackson, Michael Avila and Michael Mezey were sitting in the next booth. She claims that even though she did nothing to provoke them, the officers “began slurring sexually explicit, degrading, and sexist epithets” as well as “profane, abusive, and threatening language” toward her. 

According to the lawsuit, Officer Juan C. Rodriguez came to the diner and threatened to arrest Vazquez without reason.  She claims that she was ultimately arrested “without probable cause” and, which at the police station, “was repeatedly struck, beaten and choked” by Officer Avila.

Also named in the suit were Paterson Police Chief James F. Wittig and Sergeant A. Grovato.

The case is captioned Vazquez v. Paterson, Federal Case No. 13-433 (WJH) and Vazquez’s attorney was Nancy E. Lucianna of Fort Lee.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Vazquez’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $200,000 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 Vazquez $200,000 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. Ther 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]