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City Moves To Settle Two Lawsuits Against Paterson Police Officers

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PATERSON, NJ – The City Council on Tuesday authorized settlements in two separate federal lawsuits accusing Paterson police officers of making false arrests and using excessive force.

In one case, the city is agreeing to pay $65,000 to a woman who says she was assaulted by police officers when she went to see her brother at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center. In the other case, the city has not yet disclosed how much it is willing to pay a man who was injured when officers responded to an alleged domestic dispute at his home.

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In a one-year period from fall 2010 through fall 2011, the city had paid more than $2.3 million in settlements involving the police department.

So far, in 2012, the payments have been significantly lower, with only one-six-figure settlement.  But the city could face some larger payouts in the future with possible litigation stemming from three civilians deaths this year that involved regular or auxiliary police officers, including one case in which two auxiliary officers were charged with official misconduct.

“This is one of our weaknesses, all these lawsuits,” said Councilman Rigo Rodriguez. “That money comes from the taxpayers. People don’t realize that.”

The $65,000 settlement approved Tuesday night would go to Sharonda Davis, who is a Carroll Street resident, according to her lawsuit. Davis said in court papers that she was assaulted and falsely arrested on July 21, 2009 when she went to visit her brother at the hospital, where she says he was taken after being beaten by police.

Davis identified her attackers as Sgt. Edwin Rodriguez, Officer Christopher Scudieri and Officer A. Alvarez. She said she was imprisoned for two hours and charged with obstruction of a government function, but that she was acquitted in municipal court in July 2010.

In the other case, the council authorized its attorney to settle a lawsuit with Dennis DeLuccia somewhere within an undisclosed range of payment. City law director said the council would have to approve another resolution setting the precise amount of the settlement after the deal is finalized.

DeLuccia accused police officers who responded to his River Terrace home of pushing him to the ground and against a radiator, resulting in a fracture of his thigh bone, according to his lawsuit. DeLuccia, who is seeking more than $75,000 in the lawsuit, said officers came to his home on Feb. 19, 2007 saying they were responding a domestic dispute.

DeLuccia said he allowed the officers into his home, but refused to let them inside a bedroom where he said his father was sleeping, according to the lawsuit. DeLuccia said he was knocked down when he asked the officers for a warrant. The only other person in the apartment at the time was DeLuccia’s father, who said there was no domestic incident, according to the lawsuit. DeLuccia’s lawsuit accuses Officers Vaughn Patterson and Alexander Ilic of using excessive force against him.

The attorneys for Davis and DeLuccia did not return phone messages seeking their comment.

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