Law & Justice

Town of Westfield Settles False Arrest Lawsuit for Over $1M

0148a0029e01e1fedd54_978ee22e0c3c61bac00b_DSC02211.JPG
Kimberly Sorrentino and Lawrence Rolnick's home on Boulevard was the site of allegedly unlawful arrests in 2009. Credits: Jill D'Ambrosio
0148a0029e01e1fedd54_978ee22e0c3c61bac00b_DSC02211.JPG

WESTFIELD, NJ – The town of Westfield agreed to pay a Westfield couple, their adult son and his friend a total of $1.155 million when their federal civil rights false arrest case stemming from an incident in 2009 was settled last week, a month before a trial planned for Dec.15.

Under the settlement, Kimberly Sorrentino and Lawrence Rolnick will receive $1 million, while their son Austin will receive $100,000, according to the couple’s attorney, Donald DiGioia of Weiseman DiGioia in Mountainside. Austin Rolnick’s friend Ramon Martinez is set to receive $55,000.

Westfield Town Administrator Jim Gildea was contacted by TAP into Westfield and has not yet commented on behalf of the town.

Sign Up for E-News

Sorrentino and Rolnick filed suit against the town of Westfield, the Westfield Police Department and numerous officers in which they charged the defendants with “unreasonable, unconstitutional and unlawful physical assaults” upon them, their son and his friend during a holiday party held at their home on Dec. 23, 2009, according to an amended complaint provided by DiGioia.

According to DiGioia, Sorrentino and Rolnick’s adult daughter hosted a holiday party at the family home on Boulevard and rented a bus to transport guests from Manhattan to the gathering.

As guests were disembarking the bus around 2 a.m., a neighbor driving past stopped to ask partygoers to keep noise levels down, and upon returning home called in a complaint to the county, DiGioia said.

Subsequently, the police department sent three officers to the home at 545 Boulevard to investigate, he said, and when the police arrived, they exchanged words with Austin Rolnick, who was on the lawn of the property. The exchange escalated into an argument.

“There’s nothing illegal about having words with the police,” said DiGioia.

The argument awoke Sorrentino in her upstairs bedroom, and she came downstairs to check on her son, according to DiGioia. Austin and Sorrentino entered their home and were standing in the foyer when, according to Sorrentino, the officers began pounding on her front door, DiGioia said. She partially opened the door and the officers “push through the door, knock her down,” DiGioia said.

“My position was that it was illegal and unconstitutional to go into that house without a warrant,” he said.

Next, the police took Austin Rolnick out into the street and arrested him, according to DiGioia.

“The police say both of these people resisted them,” he added, referring to Austin and Ramon Martinez. “But throughout this whole thing, no neighbor ever said that Austin was being disorderly.”

DiGioia noted that during the incident, the officers failed to activate their sound or video equipment.

While Austin Rolnick and Ramon Martinez were taken to the police station, an ambulance arrived to take Sorrentino to Overlook Hospital for injuries sustained when the officers entered her home according to DiGioia. Meanwhile, Lawrence Rolnick drove downtown to the police station.

Rolnick waited a couple of hours to see his son, who he was told was being processed, according to DiGioia. Around 4:30 a.m., he left to visit his wife in the hospital and returned at 6:20 a.m. to check on his son, according to DiGioia.

By that time, a new watch commander, a lieutenant, had come on duty according to DiGioia. DiGioia said that this watch commander “comes roaring out” into the corridor and “put his finger in Lawrence’s chest and arrests him” for disorderly conduct.

Under the law, police officers cannot make an arrest for disorderly conduct unless they have witnessed the behavior in person, DiGioia said. During the deposition, the lieutenant who approached Rolnick claimed that he did not make the arrest, but video footage of the police department corridor showed something different.

“Ultimately, we get the video opened, and it corroborates exactly what I told you,” DiGioia said.

Criminal charges in this case were heard in Clark municipal court in February of 2011.

The municipal court ruled in DiGioia’s favor, throwing out the criminal charges. The prosecutor moved to dismiss charges against Lawrence Rolnick. The judge let stand the charges against Austin Rolnick and Martinez, but the state later agreed to amend the charge from disorderly conduct to a township ordinance violation, DiGioia said.

Austin Rolnick and Ramon Martinez were represented by Vincent J. LaPaglia of Hoboken.

Lawrence Rolnick eventually filed an Internal Affairs complaint with the Westfield police department. The captain of Internal Affairs later concluded the police committed no wrongdoing.

DiGioia said that Sorrentino and Rolnick, both attorneys themselves, have suffered “a lot of grief and hardship” in the aftermath of this incident.

“My clients were courageous enough to be willing to go to trial,” he said. “They wanted to make sure that the world knew that they did not break the law.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Piscataway

Staci Berger for Ward 3 Piscataway Township Council, June 5 Democratic Primary

April 24, 2018

1. Why are you running for election for Piscataway Township Council, Ward 3?

I am running for the Piscataway Township Council Ward 3 position because our community needs new leadership. I will be the independent, principled, and collaborative advocate our neighborhood deserves.

I have been a Piscataway homeowner for 20 years.  I am proud that my husband, Bill Irwin, and I are raising ...

Dr. Jacqueline Littlejohn - Candidate for Piscataway Town Council

Why are you running for election to the Piscataway Township Council?

I am running for election to the Piscataway Township Council because I believe that a vibrant democracy only flourishes when the governed have a voice in their government, be it in the form of compromise, protest, or even becoming viable candidates themselves. I have chosen the latter approach. As a candidate I want to be the ...

The Piscataway Democratic Organization Names its 2018 Ward Slate

The Piscataway Democratic Party is putting forward an incredible slate of ward candidates for the Township Council.  “Frank Uhrin, Jim Bullard, Steven D. Cahn and Michele Lombardi have brought us a 12 percent drop in the tax rate, many new job opportunities for hard working residents, and a rise in property values,” party chair and former mayor, Ted Light said.  ...

East Brunswick's Rachelle Francois Missing Since Friday

April 25, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Rachelle Francois is a missing and endangered person from East Brunswick.

She was released from Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, NY on Friday, April 20, 2018 around noon.

Francois was placed in a taxi cab by the hospital and then went to an unknown address in Elizabeth, not to her home in East Brunswick.

Ms. Francois requires medications, and it is believed ...

Obituaries

Piscataway – Reinhard Rudolf Kiefer, 85, died Sunday March 11, 2018 at home. Born in ...
Read more
Piscataway, NJ – Manuela Cruz, 94, born July 17, 1923, passed away peacefully on March 8, ...
Read more

Westfield Residents Host 6th Annual Massive Tag Sale to Benefit Furniture Assist

April 25, 2018

If you like a bargain, love antiques or collectibles, or need furniture/household/clothing/children’s items, please visit the upcoming 6th Annual Massive Tag Sale Friday & Saturday, April 27-28, starting at 9 a.m., to benefit Furniture Assist. The sale is held at 816 Prospect Street, Westfield, NJ, and attracts bargain-hunters, antique dealers and collectors from all over New ...

Step Outdoors and Into Spring with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County

EARTH CENTER, SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - Looking for something to do outdoors? The Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County is pleased to announce its spring and summer events! There will be opportunities for kids and adults to learn the basics of gardening, for experienced gardeners to sharpen their skills and for bargain hunters to add to their collections.

These events are ...

Ready for Rutgers Day this Saturday?

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - RU ready for Rutgers Day?

You will not want to miss the university’s annual welcome and show-and-tell for New Jersey residents of all ages. It all takes place this Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

It is already thr 10th anniversary of Rutgers Day, There will be more than 700 free performances, demonstrations and interactive activities. Last ...

Holy Savior Academy Excels in the Arts - Annual Spring Musical, Art Show to Take Place in May

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The students and staff at Holy Savior Academy, a pre-K3 through eighth grade AdvancedED accredited Middlebrook Deanery Catholic School located in South Plainfield, have been busy gearing up for two widely anticipated spring events. In May, the drama club will present its 4th annual Spring Spectacular Musical and a school wide art show will also take ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_e1c86484bd07288a6140_bike_blessing_sickle_cell

Sat, April 28, 11:00 AM

New Market Firehouse, Piscataway

Sickle Cell Fundraiser and Bike Blessing

Education Giving Back

Sat, April 28, 7:00 PM

Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, Plainfield

Plainfield Symphony Mahler's 9th Symphony

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_f725af9823f099a5b919_pway_5k_full_flyer

Sun, April 29, 9:00 AM

Piscataway High School, Piscataway

PWay 5K Run/Walk 2018

Education Sports

Sun, April 29, 2:00 PM

Otto Kaufman Community Center, Skillman

Relax, Rejuvenate, Renew

Health & Wellness

Mon, April 30, 7:00 PM

Somerset Valley Playhouse, Hillsborough

Auditions for Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs of ...

Arts & Entertainment

Kurt Steiner, a Holocaust Survivor, tells Life Story as 106th Birthday Draws Near

April 23, 2018

CRANFORD, NJ – In a quaint white house near the border of Cranford and Garwood, 105-year-old Kurt Steiner sat at his dining room table, surrounded by cabinets that held his collection of Viennese glass and antique Limoge plates. At his table, he had his carefully taped together passport and exit papers from Vienna, Austria, stamped with a large “J” and “Jude,” the ...

Cluelessly Clueless

I teenaged my way through high school under the assumption that my parents had no idea what I was doing.  I like to think I was pretty good at withholding information and presenting situations in ways that were other than they really were.

 

Still, sometimes they found things out.  Like the time my friends plopped me on our front door step at one o'clock in the morning ...