On April 20, 2017, the Borough of Berlin (Camden County) paid $2,500 to settle a lawsuit filed by a Sicklerville man who claimed that Borough police arrested him and issued several summonses to retaliate against him for previously filing a lawsuit against them.

In his complaint, John Kleinberg claimed that after he filed a federal lawsuit against police officer Darren Lomonaco and other officers, he was arrested and imprisoned for five days for allegedly writing to his ex-wife, in violation of a restraining order, seeking emancipation of their son.  The lawsuit, which does not specifically allege that Lomonaco or any other Berlin officer caused the arrest to occur, claims that Kleinberg was ultimately found not guilty of the restraining order violation charge. 

Kleinberg also claimed that Lomonaco, who appears to have been Kleinberg’s neighbor, confronted him “for having a new roommate” after which Lomonaco and his fellow officers caused summonses to issue against him for failing to fix a window on his property, driving without a license, failure to remove ice from his sidewalk and “for playing his music too loud.”  According to the complaint, the ice, music and window summonses were dismissed and the driver license offense resulted in an eighteen month driver license suspension.  Kleinberg said that he was fixing his girlfriend’s car in a driveway when the driver license summons was issued.

Also named in the lawsuit Chief of Police Kevin Carey.  Named in the release were officers Ryan Marrlow, Ryan Herron and Eric Wolf.

The case is captioned Kleinberg, v. Borough of Berlin, et al, Federal Case No. 1:16-cv-02555 and Kleinberg’s attorneys were Matthew B. Weisberg and David A. Berlin of Morton, Pennsylvania.  The complaint and and the release are on-line here.

None of the Kleinberg’ 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 Berlin or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Kleinberg $2,500 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.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]