On October 7, 2015, the City of Pleasantville (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $50,000 to a local man who said that a police canine was ordered to attack him and other officers beat him after he was already handcuffed and face down on the ground.

In his suit, Jalal Whitted, who suffers from a pre-existing psychiatric condition, said that police were called to his home on December 6, 2013 because he had a knife in his possession.  After his mother convinced Whitted to drop the knife, he and his mother stumbled and fell to the sidewalk in front of their home.  Whitted said that while he was on the ground, police handcuffed him.

Despite being handcuffed, Whitted claimed that Officer Angel Valentin “released his K-9 animal ordering it to attack” him.  At the same time, he claimed that Officers John Payne, Angelo Maldonado, Mays (presumably Miracle G. Mays), Stocks (presumably Brandon K. Stocks) and Wright (presumably Robert J. Wright) “continued to beat him with batons, clubs, and weapons including a service revolver and/or shotgun.”

The case is captioned Whitted v. City of Pleasantville et al, Federal Case No. 13-cv-07316 and Whitted’s attorney was David R. Castellani of Northfield.  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 Whitted’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $50,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Pleasantville or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Pleasantville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Whitted $50,000 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]