On October 27, 2015, the City of Elizabeth (Union County) agreed to pay $145,000 to a Newark woman who claimed that an Elizabeth police officer slammed her face into a car window.

In her suit, Jazmine Fortenberry said that on October 8, 2010 she was standing outside of local restaurant when Officer Will Torres ran up behind her and grabbed her and “swung her around with such force that it caused her to crash through a door window of a motor vehicle.”  She claimed that the injuries caused “three sets of sutures to her face.”

She said that Torres taunted her by saying “that’s what, happens when you want to be a man, want to be a gangster” and told her to “put some coco butter on your face and it will go away.”   She also claimed that Torres broke her cell phone into pieces and threw it in the water.

The case is captioned Fortenberry v. City of Elizabeth et al, Federal Case No. 2:13-cv-01640 and Fortenberry’s attorney was Raymond L. Hamlin of Newark.  The case documents are on-line here.

None of Fortenberry’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. All that is known for sure is that Elizabeth or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Fortenberry $145,000 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]