On March 24, 2016, the City of Atlantic City (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $37,500 to two African-American women and an African-American man who claimed that they were pelted with racial slurs spoken by two city police officers while they were vacationing in the Atlantic City. Each plaintiff received $12,500.
In their complaint, Andria Tooley, Roger Lester and Adrian Tooley said that as they were trying to get into a taxi after leaving the Taj Mahal, they were approached by officers Ermindo Marsini and Marinela Pali who allegedly said that they stopped Lester “because he matched the description of three black males who were suspected of having committed a robbery at Resorts Casino Hotel.” When Lester objected, noting that his two companions were females, Marsini allegedly said “Shut the f*** up” and “That’s what all you ni**ers say” and Pali allegedly said “All you ni**ers look alike.”
Then the trio said that they were “public servants and were in Atlantic City vacationing” and Marsini allegedly said “You’re just a couple of ni**ers gambling. What about those other ni**ers robbing and shooting?” and Pali allegedly followed up with “OK teacher lady! What about those ni**ers?”
The case is captioned Tooley, Lester and Tooley v. City of Atlantic City, et al, Atlantic County Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-1114-14 and the trio’s attorney was Kevin M. Costello of Mount Laurel. 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 lawsuit’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 Atlantic City or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the trio $37,500 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.