PATERSON, NJ – The City Council last week approved a $25,000 payment to settle a lawsuit filed by a man in his 50s who said two off-duty Paterson police officers beat him up outside a 5th Ward bar.
The man, Samuel Rivera, alleged that the officers attacked him when he leaned on their car while having a cigarette outside the Mi Ranchito Bar near the corner of Main and Grand streets at about 2:30 am on Nov. 15, 2010.
The officers, Dragoljub Ilic and Ericka Otera, allegedly were married to each other at the time and sitting in their car together after leaving the bar.
Ilic started cursing at Rivera and Otera initiated the fight by punching him, according to his attorney, Nancy Lucianna.
The federal lawsuit accuses the officers of using excessive force and making a false arrest. Rivera originally was seeking more than $100,000, according to court papers. Lucianna said her client accepted a lesser payment because the injuries he suffered in the beating were not that extreme.
The officers had maintained that Rivera improperly touched Otera inside the bar and that he and friends fought with the officers over that outside the bar.
Lucianna said her client was at the bar alone and never had any previous trouble with the law.
The council approved the settlement at its meeting on February 19. Some council members had wondered why the city was liable in a fight that happened while the officers were off-duty. But they were told that the city was liable in such instances because nature of law enforcement officers’ work renders them “on duty” at all times.
Ilic was laid off in 2011 and has not rejoined the Paterson police department. Otera remains a Paterson police officer. They are no longer married.