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NJ Civil Settlements

Marlboro confidentially paid out $32,500 to settle motorist’s excessive force lawsuit.

“Marlboro Township Police, New Jersey” by scoutnurse is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

On April 6, 2020, the Township of Marlboro (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $32,500 to a Freehold woman who claimed that a female police officer “punched her in the face” while she was in a holding cell for suspicion of drunk driving.

In her lawsuit, Jenelle DeMoro claimed that she was pulled over by Marlboro police officer Donna Gonzalez on November 29, 2018 for motor vehicle infractions. She claimed that Gonzalez, who took her to police headquarters on suspicion of drunk driving, “threw [her] to the ground, dragged her into a holding cell and punched her in the face.”

DeMoro claimed that she was then arrested for Aggravated Assault, Resisting Arrest and motor vehicle offenses. She said that the charges were resolved by her pleading guilty to Disorderly Conduct and Refusal to Submit to Breath Testing.

Gonzalez, who has served on the force since July 16, 2009, currently receives an annual salary of $121,176.96.

Former Marlboro Police Chief Bruce E. Hall was also named as a defendant in the case.

The case is captioned DeMoro v. Township of Marlboro, et al, Federal Case No. 3:20-cv-0220 and DeMoro’s attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold. 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 Marlboro or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay DeMoro $32,500 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.

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project