On December 17, 2015, the City of Bridgeton (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $5,000 to a female shoplifting suspect who claimed that a Bridgeton police officer threatened to take her to jail if she did not repeatedly have sex with him.

In her suit, Shakera Brown claimed that she was approached by Officer Braheme Days on January 20, 2014 because she matched the description of a shoplifter.  Days allegedly told her that “there are two ways we can handle this: I can take you to jail, or we can handle this in an adult manner.”  Brown claimed that since she could not go to jail because she had children at home, Days told her to put her cell number into his phone.  Thereafter, Days started calling her repeatedly for sex and Brown claimed that she reluctantly gave into Days’ demands.  Later, Days allegedly gave Brown a pre-paid cellular phone so that he could reach her whenever he desired.

The suit’s dismissal was reported on on NJ.com on December 6, 2015 in an article entitled “Sexual extortion lawsuit against Bridgeton cop dismissed after settlement, court says.”  According to the article, Brown’s lawsuit was dismissed in November because Brown “missed deadlines and failed to share information during the discovery process.”

The case is captioned Brown v. City of Bridgeton et al, Federal Case No. 1:15-cv-1452 and Brown’s attorney was Raheem S. Watson of Philadelphia.  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 Brown’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $5,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Bridgeton or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Bridgeton or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Brown $5,000 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]