In a May 3, 2022 article, I reported that four lawsuits arising out of Cumberland County, New Jersey Jail inmate suicides settled for a total of $672,500. In the same article, I reported that three other inmate suicide cases were then still pending. Those three cases have since settled bringing the total cost to settle all seven suits to $2,312,000.

Estate of Gregory Kubiak, Case No. 1:20-cv-09478

According to a January 19, 2023 letter from Kubiak estate’s attorney, the case was settled even though it was stayed by the court pending the resolution of related criminal charges filed against Corrections Officer Richard Cotto. According to news reports, Cotto was charged with official misconduct, endangerment and tampering with public records for allegedly falsely reporting that he performed routine checks on Kubiak, who was 32 at the time of this death. The criminal complaint against Cotto is on-line here along with a February 2023 letter from the Cumberland County Prosecutor stating that the case against Cotto is still pending.

According to the settlement agreement, Kubiak’s estate received $414,500 from Cumberland County, $500 from Cotto and $35,000 from CFG Health Systems, LLC, the private vendor that provides inmates with health services, for a total of $450,000.

Estate of David Conroy, Case No. 1:17-cv-07183/1:18-cv-14184

According to an April 26, 2022 settlement agreement, Conroy’s estate received $750,000 from Cumberland County. Conroy, who was 32 at the time of his death, was found hanging in his cell on May 27, 2017.

Justin Cimino and Nicholas Gomez, two jail guards who were charged with tampering in connection with Conroy’s death, were diverted into New Jersey’s pretrial intervention program allowing them to avoid the risk of serving a jail sentence, according to an August 6, 2018 NJ Advance Media article.

Estate of Megan Moore, Case No. 1:17-cv-02839/1:18-cv-16345

According to a settlement agreement reached in mid-July 2022, Moore’s estate received $475,000 from the County and $25,000 from CFG for a total of $500,000. Moore was 21 when she was found hanging in her cell on February 20, 2017.

Tabatha Roman, a corrections officer, was indicted on a third-degree endangering charge for allegedly failing to keep a close watch check on Moore, according to a March 5, 2018 NJ Advance Media article. The criminal complaint against Roman is on-line here along with a February 2023 letter from the Cumberland County Prosecutor stating that the case against Roman is still pending.

Similar to the four settlement agreements referenced in my May 3, 2022 article, these three settlements also contain confidentiality clauses, under which the decedent’s families promised not to disclose the settlement terms or amount. 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 employees or officials named in the lawsuit. All that is known for sure is that the Cumberland County, CFG and the other defendants, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay the settlement amounts than take the matters 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]