In a March 15, 2016 letter, an attorney for the Borough of South Bound Brook (Somerset County) confirmed that the Borough’s insurer will pay $100,000 to a local man who claimed that he was unjustifiably arrested, verbally abused and suffered excessive force at the hands of Borough police.

In his lawsuit, Francisco J. Villaneuva said that on July 8, 2011 Officer Edward McGovern “began a course of verbal abuse toward” Villaneuva’s son after pulling over his vehicle. When Villaneuva approached his son’s vehicle, McGovern allegedly ordered him to go back to his house and then verbally abused the senior Villaneuva while he complied.  Villaneuva claimed that he was then attacked by McGovern, Officer Douglas LaGrua and others and arrested for obstructing justice, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and aggravated assault.  Villaneuva said that the charges were still pending on July 2, 2013, the date his suit was filed.

The case is captioned Villaneuva v. Borough of South Bound Brook, et al, Federal Case No. 3:13-cv-04089 and Villaneuva’s attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Villaneuva’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants. All that is known for sure is that South Bound Brook or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Villaneuva $100,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants’ decision 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 resolve 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]