On July 1, 2013, the Borough of Seaside Heights (Ocean County) agreed to pay $25,000 to a Toms River man who sued members of the Seaside Heights Police Department for assaulting him. 

In his suit, Garyvens Joseph said that on September 19, 2010, he was at a boardwalk amusement park eating ice cream with his son and waiting for his fiance when a woman accused him of “looking at her friend.” After denying that he was looking at her friend, he claimed he walked away and put his son on an amusement ride.

Afterwards, Patrolmen Joseph Provaznik and Matthew Meyler allegedly approached him and asked him to leave the park.  When he told the officers that he could not leave the park while his son was still on the ride, the two officers allegedly assaulted him, called him a f***ing n***er and arrested him for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Also named in the suit were Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd, Detective Stephen Korman, Lieutenant Jon Lombardi and Sergeant James Hans.

The case is captioned Joseph v. Seaside Heights, Federal Case No. 3:11-cv-01599 Joseph’s attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public’s right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Joseph’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $25,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Seaside Heights or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Seaside Heights or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Joseph $25,000 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]