On July 16, 2014, the Township of Lacey (Ocean County) agreed to pay $10,000 to three brothers who sued members of the Lacey Police Department for allegedly applying excessive force, falsely arresting them and searching their premises without a warrant.
In their suit, Daniel, John and Joseph Samoles said that on May 27, 2010, police were called after Bessie A. Patten “attempted to extort money from Plaintiff Daniel Samoles at gunpoint.” Daniel said that he called police after disarming Patten and that Officers Brian Flynn, Adam Ewart, Gerald Noda, Paul Sullivan, Thomas Bruce, James Veltri and James Wood arrived at the residence. The officers, with guns drawn, ordered the brothers out of the house and told them to get on their knees and raise their hands. The men, who claimed that their home security camera recorded the event, said that the officers arrested them and applied excessive force even though the brothers complied with all police commands. The brothers said that the officers then went into the house without a warrant and searched the family’s personal belongings. They also claimed that $2,000 was stolen.
Also named in the suit were Lacey Police Chief William Nally along with Michael DiBella.
The case is captioned Samoles v. Lacey, Federal Case No. 3:12-cv-03066 and Samoles’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 the Samoles brothers’ allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $10,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Lacey or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Lacey or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the Samoles brothers $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.