On January 22, 2015, the Township of Stafford (Ocean County) agreed to pay $13,750 to a Manahawkin man who sued members of the Stafford Police Department for allegedly assaulting him and applying excessive force.

In his suit, Ian Wolfer said that on October 15, 2011, he was “assaulted without justification and with excessive force by” Stafford Police Officers Christopher Smith, Albert Haldenwang and Robert Woodring.

Also named in the suit were Stafford Police Chief Joseph Giberson.

The case is captioned Wolfer v. Stafford, Federal Case No. 3:13-cv-06096 and Wolfer’s attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Wolfer’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $13,750 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Stafford or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Stafford or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Wolfer $13,750 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]