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Thirteen New Jersey state troopers who filed racial discrimination claims against the state police, alleging they were harassed, hazed and denied promotion, have agreed to settle their claims for a total of $4 million. “We are no longer willing to defend against the actions of the previous administration,” said Douglas Wolfson, the director of the Division of Law within the state attorney general’s office. The settlement includes about $1 million in attorney fees, says Wolfson. The lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Renee Steinhagen, executive director of the New Jersey Appleseed Public Law Interest Center, confirms that an agreement in principle had been reached in the decade-long case but declines to discuss the specifics. Steinhagen filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1993, and followed up in 1997 with the suit Davis v. New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, MER-2229-97. Wolfson said the state opted to have the suit mediated by retired Appellate Division Judge John Keefe rather than go to trial. The troopers agreed to settle last April after having their claims individually mediated, but the settlement was put on hold until the state’s fiscal 2003 state budget was approved. Wolfson says the state did not believe it made sense from a fiscal standpoint to continue to pay defense counsel fees, which are already expected to exceed $1 million. The state had been represented by Michael Cole, a partner at Teaneck, N.J.’s DeCotiis, FitzPatrick, Gluck & Cole. The plaintiffs will divide the award in amounts representing lost backpay and compensation for pain and suffering. Yusel El-Amin will receive $500,000; Gregory Sanders, $475,000; Daryl Beard, $425,000; William Sweeney, $350,000; John Perry, $325,000; James E. Smith, $200,000; Victor Cooper, $275,000; Travis Francis, $225,000; Arnie Abram, $275,000; Samuel Davis Jr., $250,000; Paul Sinckler, $250,000; Alvin Smith III, $225,000; and Roger Johnson, $225,000. The plaintiffs were also represented by Linda Kenney of Red Bank, N.J., and Johnnie Cochran, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld of New York’s Cochran, Neufeld & Scheck. The state also faces the potential of millions of dollars more in damages and fees if plaintiffs in two class action cases — one in state court, Murka. v. New Jersey, MID-8429-97, and another in federal court, White v. Williams, 99-240 — prevail in their racial discrimination claims. The plaintiffs in those cases, all minority motorists stopped by state troopers, claim that their civil rights were violated because of racial profiling.

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