On December 5, 2017, the Township of Belleville (Essex County) agreed to pay $90,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a man, now deceased, who claimed that Township police falsely arrested and used excessive force against him in September 2010.

In his lawsuit, Nicholas H. Quartuccio, Sr. said that he was cooperative when police arrived at his home on September 2, 2010 in response to a call regarding a dispute between Quartuccio, his daughter and her boyfriend.  According to the lawsuit, the dispute was over whether the daughter’s boyfriend was allowed to stay at the premises.  According to Quartuccio, officers kept asking him the same questions and kept responding “wrong answer” when he answered them.  He claimed that police, without cause, surrounded him and “hit him on the back of the head and slammed him to the ground.”  Thereafter, the officers allegedly “kicked, punched and beat [him] outside his home, jumping and pummeling him and hitting him in the head.”

Quartuccio claimed that police falsely charged him with aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, criminal mischief and throwing bodily fluids at a law enforcement officer.  He said that he spent about a week in jail and, on advice of his lawyer, pled guilty to simple assault and a disorderly persons charge.

According to media reports, Quartuccio died in a house fire in early February 2015.  The settlement agreement was made with his estate.

Belleville police officers Matthew Dox, John Andino, Anthony Abate, Joseph Werner, Charles Mollineux, William Knoth and Franchino Pigantaro were named as defendants in the lawsuit.  Also named was then Chief Joseph P. Rotonda.

The case is captioned Quartuccio v. Township of Belleville, et al, Federal Case No. 2:12-cv-05464 and Quartuccio’s estate’s attorney was Shelley L. Stangler of Springfield.  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 Belleville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Quartuccio $90,000 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]