On June 7, 2016, the Township of Haddon (Camden County) agreed to pay $16,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a Collingswood businessman who said that Township police officers used excessive force against him in retaliation for his expression of displeasure on how one officer treated him.

In his lawsuit, John Saponara, a 73-year-old auto repair shop owner, said that on March 22, 2013 Haddon police officer Diaz Camacho detained him in the parking lot of a business named the Tire Corral for failure to have a license plate on his vehicle.  Saponara claimed that he had told Camacho that he was at the Tire Corral to buy tires for a car he was repairing at his own shop and was under “business related time constraints.”  Despite his hurry, Saponara claimed that Camacho made him “wait in his car for an unreasonable period of time . . . while she leisurely prepared the summonses.”  Saponara said that Camacho intentionally made him wait because she was miffed that he did not immediately comply with her order to sit in his car.

After Camacho handed him two summonses, Saponara said that he exited his car so that he could go to Tire Corral to conduct his business. While getting out of his car, Saponara said that he told Camacho that he was not pleased with how she treated him.  He said that he didn’t threaten Camacho–he only conveyed to her “an expression of his frustration and disapproval.”  A second officer, Joseph Talucci, who was standing nearby, ordered Saponara back into his car and then both officers allegedly tackled him when he didn’t immediately comply.  He said that Camacho drove her knee into her back while he was on the ground and that he suffered bruises and abrasions while being handcuffed.  He said that he was charged with Disorderly Conduct but was later acquitted in municipal court.

The case is captioned Saponara v. Township of Haddon, et al, Superior Court Docket No. CAM-L-997-15 and Saponara’s attorney was Gregg A. Shivers of Cherry Hill. Case documents are on-line here

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 Haddon or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Saponara $16,000 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]