A man who sued Bloomfield for false arrest after a violent traffic stop has accepted $1.6 million to settle his suit in federal court.
Marcus Jeter alleged that at least 10 officers from the Bloomfield Police Department beat him during a June 7, 2012, traffic stop on the Garden State Parkway. He was indicted on charges of eluding police, resisting arrest and assault on a police officer, but the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office dropped those charges after Bloomfield released dashcam footage of the arrest.
Jeter contended that the dashcam video , which was withheld for nearly a year by Bloomfield officials, contradicted much of what was written in police reports concerning his arrest. Three of the arresting officers faced criminal charges following the release of the dashcam video.
Officers stopped Jeter’s vehicle after he left the scene of an argument with his girlfriend.
The video showed Jeter holding his hands in the air while one arresting officer repeatedly yelled, “Stop trying to take my gun, stop resisting,” according to the complaint. The video then showed officers dragging Jeter from the vehicle and onto the ground, where they continued to assault him, the suit claimed. Lawyers for Bloomfield and its officers denied the allegations.
After the assault, arresting officers refused to provide medical treatment for Jeter’s injuries, the suit said. He was taken to a hospital 14 hours after his arrest, according to the complaint.
The first two officers at the traffic stop parked their vehicles behind Jeter’s car on the southbound side of the Parkway. The third officer on the scene, who had been traveling northbound on the Parkway, drove across oncoming traffic before striking the front of Jeter’s vehicle. Officials initially withheld the existence of the video from that car from Jeter’s criminal defense lawyer, West Orange solo practitioner Stephen Brown, the suit claimed. That video was ultimately provided to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, prompting the dismissal of charges against Jeter, he claimed.
Jeter, who is African-American, claimed in his civil suit that the Bloomfield police had a pattern and practice of using excessive force against minorities and maliciously prosecuting them. The assault against Jeter was the result of systematic deficiencies in the training, supervision and discipline of its officers by Bloomfield, the suit claimed.
Jeter’s suit cited two other incidents in the weeks following his arrest in which Bloomfield police arrested a total of three African-American males on charges of robbery and aggravated assault, only to see the charges later dropped.
Jeter’s lawyer in the civil case, Tracey Hinson of Hinson Snipes in Princeton, said in a statement, “What happened to Mr. Jeter sounds like something we would expect in some far-away totalitarian regime with no regard for truth or due process—not the great state of New Jersey. When police officers act like they are above the laws that they swear to protect, they must be held accountable by prosecutors and citizens alike.”
Two of Jeter’s arresting officers, Sean Courter and Orlando Trinidad, were convicted by a jury in November 2015 of official misconduct and other charges for submitting false reports about the arrest. A third officer, Albert Sutterlin, pleaded guilty in October 2013 to tampering with records.
The agreement was reached after the parties participated in four settlement conferences with U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy Waldor of the District of New Jersey over the past 13 months. U.S. District Judge Katharine Hayden recorded the case as settled on June 19, and Jeter signed a release on June 28.
Alan Baratz of Weiner Law Group in Parsippany, who represented the township and Police Chief Christopher Goul, did not return a call about the settlement. The office of Mayor Michael Venezia referred a reporter’s inquiry about the settlement to a public relations consultant, who did not respond.