On April 19, 2023, the City of Linden (Union County, NJ) agreed to pay $85,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a local man who said he was falsely arrested and jailed for six days. The man claimed he was wrongfully accused of leading police on a high-speed chase when he was actually at work.

According to Rayvon Leverette’s lawsuit, on February 22, 2019, Linden Police Officer James Garrison prepared a Complaint-Warrant charging him with N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(b), a crime of the third degree, for knowingly eluding a police officer after having received a signal to stop. Garrison wrote in his affidavit of probable cause that when he tried to stop Leverette for a traffic violation, he drove his BMW over 100 mph in a 25 mph zone, blew through stop sign and a red light and nearly lost control of his vehicle before Garrison elected to abandon the chase, according to the lawsuit. Leverette claimed that Garrison swore that he and other officers positively identified him as the driver of the vehicle.

According to the lawsuit, an arrest warrant was issued which resulted in Garrison, along with Officers Raymond Wegrzynek, John P. Basich and other officers arresting Leverette at his home and impounding his BMW. Leverette said that he was taken to the Union County Jail where he was held for five days and then transferred to another facility where he was held for another day until he was “released with conditions.”

Leverette, however, insisted that he wasn’t the driver of the BMW that was involved in the chase. He claimed that he told Garrison and the other officers that he was at work at the time of the chase and asked them to call his employer to verify that he was telling the truth. He said that he told officers that the chemical plant where he worked was a secure facility and that the surveillance cameras would confirm that he was working at the time of the car chase.

Leverette claimed that Garrison’s patrol car’s dash board camera ultimately showed that the BMW that was involved in the chase was not Leverette’s BMW that was impounded. He said that the Union County Prosecutor’s Office ultimately dismissed the eluding charge.

According to his lawsuit, Leverette’s arrest and imprisonment caused him to be fired from his job and made it difficult to find new employment. He said that the job he ultimately found paid him less than the job he held at the chemical plant.

The case is captioned Rayvon Leverette v. James Garrison, et al, Federal Case No. 2:21-cv-03126 and Leverette’s attorney was Ethan Jesse Sheffet of Verona. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

As part of the settlement, Leverette voluntarily dismissed his claims against non-settling defendants James Garrison, Raymond Wegrzynek, and John P. Basich without payment on their behalf.

None of Leverette’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 Linden officers. All that is known for sure is that Linden or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Leverette $85,000 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]