On June 24, 2013, the City of Millville (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $20,000 to a local woman who sued members of the Millville Police Department for allegedly beating her and arresting her without probable cause.

In her suit, Charnette Holmes said that on July 3, 2008, she was at her home when she heard her niece and another woman having a loud argument outside.  She said that she intervened in the argument and succeeded in getting her niece to go into the house and for the other woman to leave the premises.

Brian Cushner and another officer arrived at the scene while the other woman, who Holmes felt was the person who had caused the incident, was leaving in a car.  She said that she said “excuse me” to Cushner and when Cushner ignored her she approached him “and touched his arm.”  Cushner allegedly said “don’t f—ing touch me, don’t touch a police officer” and Holmes said that she tried to explain that he was letting the perpetrator get away.

According to Holmes, Cushner then placed her under arrest, handcuffed her and sprayed mace in her face while both hands were behind her back.  When she acted defensively to the mace, Cushner allegedly “slammed her to the ground with great force.”  He and other officers allegedly later said “you people are gonna learn.”  She alleges that she spent the night in jail and was then treated for injuries to her ear and eye.

The case is captioned Holmes v. Millville, Federal Case No. 1:10-cv-5384 and Holmes’s attorney was Louis Charles Shapiro of Vineland.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Holmes’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $20,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Millville or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Millville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Holmes $20,000 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]