On November 29, 2022, the City of Newark (Essex County, NJ) quietly paid $25,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed by a recently retired Clark Township police lieutenant who claimed he was forced to defend himself against a “bogus/false/trumped up criminal charge” that was filed against him after a Newark police official, motivated by a personal problem with the Clark lieutenant, told subordinate officers to omit relevant details from a police report.

In his lawsuit, Antonio Manata, a Clark Township Police Lieutenant, stated that while visiting his Newark rental property on August 20, 2018 he encountered an “extremely intoxicated, belligerent, quarrelsome and confrontational” former tenant, identified as Charles Perkins, who threatened to “put a bullet” in Manata’s head while “making clear gestures to his waistband.”

Perkins then “fell over his own feet because of the exceedingly high level of his apparent intoxication” and hit his face on a fence and then hit his face on the ground, according to the lawsuit. Manata claimed that Perkins then rose to his feet and accused Manata of punching him in the face.

According to Manata, Newark Police officers Rui Pinto and Robby Rios arrived on the scene and walked toward Manata with their hands on their firearms. Pinto and Rios told Manata that Perkins told them that Manata had punched him. Manata claimed that he showed both officers his hands to demonstrate that there was no blood or other evidence indicating that he punched Perkins. He also claimed to have directed the officers to witnesses who saw Perkins fall on his own accord.

A few minutes later, Sergeant Antonio Barbosa arrived to the scene, according to the lawsuit. He reportedly directed Pinto and Rios to write a report that reflected both Manata’s and Perkins’ versions of events and to note that there was no injury to Manata’s hands.

Manata claimed that Perkins, who was being attended to by medical personnel, then jumped out of an ambulance and was allowed by Pinto and Rios to reenter Manata’s rental property even though he no longer lived there. Manata claimed that it was subsequently learned that Perkins had broken into the property, destroyed furniture and then, in the presence of Pinto and Rios, “ferociously shattered a window” and “threatened to shoot and kill” Manata. Manata claimed that despite the property damage and threat, Pinto and Rios did not arrest Perkins.

The next day, Manata said that he learned from a Newark detective that he was a suspect in a crime she was investigating. This motivated Manata to obtain a copy of the police report of the original incident and discover that “the report was missing numerous highly relevant facts, as well as containing wholly inaccurate and mistaken information about what had transpired on the day in question.” Manata said that he learned that Pinto and Rios were ordered by their supervisor, Evaristo Cordero, to falsify the report to not include Manata’s version of the event. Cordero’s instruction, according to the lawsuit, was motivated by “some sort of personal, unrelated problem” he had with Manata.

The following day, August 22, 2018, Manata claimed that he appeared at Newark Police headquarters and filed an internal affairs complaint. According to an exhibit to his complaint, Pinto and Rios were found to have violated police rules and regulations but, according to the lawsuit, “Cordero was apparently not disciplined at all.”

In an August 28, 2018 telephone conversation with Newark Sergeant Danny Costa, Manata claimed that Costa told him that he had been told that Manata “should be charged with assault” so it “did not look like he was being favored because he is a cop — let the court throw it out”.

On September 1, 2018, after receiving solicitation letters from defense lawyers, Manata investigated and found that an August 28, 2018 simple assault complaint had been filed against him for “striking [Perkins] in the face with a closed fist, causing victim to lose 4 teeth from the front of his mouth.” The criminal complaint is attached as an exhibit to Manata’s lawsuit.

Manata said that he was baffled by the fact that a box on the complaint was marked “unable to serve” him even though the police were well aware of Manata’s address and contact information. In his lawsuit, Manata theorized that the Newark Police Department’s failure to serve him with the complaint was done purposely so that he would not appear in court and be arrested when a warrant was issued.

After spending a great deal of money on a defense lawyer, the charge was dismissed by the judge after Newark Police representatives failed to appear, according to the lawsuit.

Manata has been in the news lately for having received a $400,000 settlement from Clark Township after having recorded the mayor and the police chief using racial slurs. On April 7, 2022, Manata also filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.

The case is captioned Manata v. City of Newark Federal Case No.2:19-cv-09416 and Manata’s attorney was Patrick P. Toscano, Jr. of Caldwell. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, under which Manata agreed that the settlement and its terms and amounts be kept confidential. 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 Manata’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Perkins or any of the defendants. All that is known for sure is that Newark or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Manata $25,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants’ decision to settle 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 settle 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]