On March 17, 2016, the Borough of Tuckerton (Ocean County) agreed to pay $15,000 to settle a local man’s lawsuit that Borough police assaulted him.

In his complaint, Robert Thomas Pankiewitz said that on October 6, 2012 Officer Joseph Luna “assaulted [him] without justification and with excessive force during the course of a motor vehicle stop.” No further details are provided in the complaint.

The case is captioned Pankiewitz v. Borough of Tuckerton, et al, Federal Case No. 3:14-cv-05583 and Pankiewitz’s attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Pankiewitz’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 Tuckerton or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Pankiewitz $15,000 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]