On June 11, 2012, the Borough of North Haledon (Passaic County) agreed to pay $16,000 to four Wayne men who sued members of the North Haledon Police Department for allegedly stopping, searching and detaining them without probable cause.

In their suit, Anthony Terrana, Nicholas Terrana, Antonio Terrana and Antonio Amabile claimed that on July 15, 2009 the car in which they were travelling was illegally stopped by Officer Michael Cedar.  They allege that they were all ordered out of the car by Cedar, Officer Dean Fusco, Sergeant Marc Rowe and Lieutenant Todd Darby.  They claim that the officers illegally searched them, seized their cell phones and wallets and subjected them to “abusive language and intimidation.”  Eventually, they claim, the officers told them that they were free to go.

The case is captioned Terrana, et al v. North Haledon, Docket No. PAS-L-2563-10 and the men’s  attorney was Raymond P. Vivino of Wayne.  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 men’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $16,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by North Haledon or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that North Haledon or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the men $16,000 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]