Middlesex County News

City agrees to $172K settlement with former cop

Then-Lt. Steve Middleton (left) and Mayor James Cahill (right) in a 2011 photo.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The city has agreed to a $172,000 settlement with former police officer Steve Middleton, years after he filed a lawsuit against the city alleging racial discrimination.

Middleton, an African American​, served as a​ New Brunswick police officer for nearly two decades​. He​ alleged that he was repeatedly overlooked for promotions, frequently subjected to racial slurs from his superiors and given harsher punishment and scrutiny than his white coworkers on the force.

The suit, filed in 2012, was initially filed against New Brunswick Police Director Anthony Caputo, New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill, former ​P​olice ​D​irector Peter Mangarella and the city itself.

Sign Up for E-News

​In July 2017, ​Superior Court ​Judge Arthur Bergman dismissed the case against Cahill, Caputto and Mangarella, leaving the city as the sole defendant.

The settlement means that Middleton is forfeiting his right to a trial and jury, ​a proceeding in  its second day when the settlement was reached Wednesday, November 29.

​Superior Court ​ Judge Vincent Leblon, presiding over the case, said he expected the trial to go on for two to three weeks, and suggested that Cahill and Caputo might have also been called up to testify.

Attorneys from Dwyer, Connell & Lisbona, which represented the city, motioned for a mistrial after only one hour of testimony from Middleton.

They argued that that jury was tainted by testimony Middleton provided on a separate case, filed by longtime officers Arthur Anderson, Maurice Finney and Tony Ingram, who alleged they were being punished for not supporting a so-called “political machine” led by Cahill.

That punishment came in the form of the three being passed over for promotions and frequently given undesirable assignments, such as crossing guard duty.

Attorneys for both sides agreed that no matter the outcome, the other​ side would appeal and declare a mistrial, meaning an entirely new jury would have to be selected. Rather than a potentially costly trial which dragged on indefinitely, both sides opted for a settlement.

The November 29 settlement came reluctantly from the city, whose officials have expressed a desire to fully go to trial instead, according to one of the city’s lawyers, William T. Connell.

“I want to indicate for the record that Mayor Cahill did not approve this settlement, did not favor this settlement,” Connell said. “He has approved it, he was not in favor of it, he wanted a jury to decide this case.”

Connell added that New Brunswick Police Director Anthony Caputo was also displeased by the settlement

The money is coming from the Middlesex County Joint Insurance Fund. Contrary to the name, the JIF only has three member towns from Middlesex County and includes municipalities from all across the state.

During Middleton’s testimony on November 28, and as well as in the lawsuit, Middleton described racial bias to which he was allegedly subjected since joining the force in 1994.

For instance, he was given the nickname “8-ball,” while another officer was given the nickname “fudge,” Middleton​ claimed​.

On many occasions, Middleton said, Mangarella frequently made “inappropriate, unprofessional remarks,” that showed a “disregard for minorities.”

During the testimony, Middleton compared Mangarella to Archie Bunker, a television character who was known for frequently making racial remarks and jokes.

In one instance, Mangarella used racial slurs about an unarmed ​African American man he shot in the back, according to Middleton.

During a barbeque at National Night Out several years ago, according to Middleton, then-Lt. Mangarella made a joke about how minority children who lived in the Schwartz Homes and Robeson Village public housing were prone to petty theft, advising everyone to check their pockets for anything missing.

During the testimony, one of Middleton’s attorneys, Donald Burke, Jr., detailed a car chase in which Middleton was involved and received a significantly stricter punishment than his white superiors.

Middleton, who was in the passenger seat of the car, was punished with an eight-day suspension from duty, according to Burke.

Sgt. John Langan, a​ white ​police ​officer driving the car, received a four-day suspension, while two other officers only received verbal warnings. The punishment for Middleton was unprecedented, Burke said, who suggested that it was retaliation for filing the lawsuit.

Yet Connell painted a picture of Middleton being desperate to prove himself to his superiors and other officers, recklessly endangering the public as a result.

The county prosecutor and Attorney General’s office have guidelines for police pursuits, which individual departments have to adopt, Connell said.

“They thought they were the most experienced,” Connell said, referring to Middleton and Langan. Throughout the chase, Connell said, the ​police cruiser made contact with the fleeing vehicle and went parallel to it, both of which are major violations.

The stolen vehicle eventually crashed into the curb, no one was hurt, and the suspect was apprehended, Connell said.

Middleton’s lawsuit also details numerous instances ​in which he was passed over for promotions, with the lawsuit and Burke’s opening statement depicting New Brunswick police officials bending over backwards to find reasons​ not to promote Middleton.

During one instance, a lieutenant, two captains and two sergeants all retired at the same time, the lawsuit said. But Middleton ​still ​wasn’t promoted, despite being number one on a list of potential contenders.

The lawsuit also contends that police officials deliberately stalled promoting Middleton to lieutenant until February 2011, so that he wouldn’t be eligible to sit for a captain’s test.

The test was announced late August 2010, and requires an applicant to serve at least one year as lieutenant before being eligible to sit for the test.

“New Brunswick Police Department had an obvious need for Police Lieutenants as evident by incurring overtime to existing Lieutenants and changing Lieutenants​'​ schedules to ensure adequate operational coverage,” reads the lawsuit.

But Connell disputed this as being a deliberate effort, saying that in 2010 and 2011, the department was still hounded by the economic woes of the 2008 recession, as well as demands from Gov. Chris Christie for the public sector to tighten its belt.

Mangarella had every intention to eventually promote Middleton, whom he was very fond of, Connell said, but the money simply wasn’t there in 2010.

“Mangarella says ‘we’re bleeding overtime​'​,” Connell said. “Middleton’s the number one on the list, the mayor says ‘you've gotta show me the dollars and cents that we’re going to save by promoting Steve to lieutenant, instead of incurring us overtime'​.’’

Middleton did in fact incur $3,000 in overtime, Connell said, and was promoted to sergeant and lieutenant over the course of his career, suggesting he wasn’t passed over for career advancement.

Editor Daniel J. Munoz, dmunoz@tapinto.nettwitter.com/DanielMunoz100

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

South Plainfield

The Athlete of the Week Samantha Pullen Girls’ Spring Track

The South Plainfield High School Girls’ track team is off to another great start in the 2018 season.  Their record currently stands at 3-0. This past week, the Lady Tigers defeated divisional rivals Metuchen and Middlesex by the scores of 80-56 and 75-56.  They then went on to dominate Bishop Ahr by a score of 112-24.  Much of the Lady Tigers success has been due to the ...

The Athlete of the Week Tatianna Sutor Girls’ Lacrosse

The South Plainfield High School Girls’ Lacrosse team is off to a fantastic start to their 2018 season with a record of 2-0. This past week, the Lady Tigers crushed division rival Bishop Ahr by the score of 14-2, and then went on to beat Boonton 6-3.  A huge part of the success for South Plainfield has been due in a large part to the contributions of senior goalie Tatianna ...

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 ...


Victor Kochmann, 92, passed away on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 surrounded by his loving family in ...
Read more

Letters to the Editor

Letter Welcoming Mike Zushma to Politics

April 19, 2018

Dear Editor, 

I'd like to welcome Mike Zushma to the world of politics and congratulate him on being selected as the town's Democratic Chairman.


I've served as Republican chair since 2009, and I've always enjoyed spending my time helping good people get elected to office.  In South Plainfield, it's never about party:  People work together and try ...

Natalie Stilo Signs with Drew University Golf Team

April 20, 2018

Natalie Stilo, Senior at Bishop George Ahr High School, has signed with Drew University's golf team. Currently, Natalie is on Bishop Ahr's golf team. Golf became her passion after her 10 year career in gymnastics ended. She has been working on her golf game and is excited to have the opportunity to play for Drew. She will attend Drew University in the Fall, majoring in Molecular Biology ...

Community Happenings

South Plainfield High School Hall Of Fame Is Seeking Nominees

April 19, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - The South Plainfield High School Hall of Fame Committee is again holding their search for candidates for induction into the SPHS Hall of Fame.  The Hall of Fame was established at South Plainfield High School to recognize outstanding graduates as leaders in their fields who could serve as role models for current and future students.

Candidates will be evaluated on ...

Meet with Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez - 19th Legislative District

April 24, 2018

New Jersey State School Board's Legislative Advocate Christopher Jones (l to r), Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez 19th District, Lucille Bloom, Delegate New Jersey School Boards Association Board of Directors and member of the Sayreville Board of Education and Middlesex County School Board's President Debbie Boyle and member of the  South Plainfield Board of Education  met on April ...

Holy Savior Academy to Hold Open House on April 24

April 18, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Holy Savior Academy, an AdvancedED accredited Middlebrook Deanery Catholic School located in South Plainfield, will hold an open house the evening of Tuesday, April 24.At this time, prospective students and their families in pre-K3 through 8th grade will have the opportunity to tour the school, meet teachers and register. 

“Holy Savior ...

South Plainfield Middle School Students Perform with the CJMEA Honors Band

April 25, 2018

Monroe Township, NJ- On April 21, ten South Plainfield Middle School students had the opportunity to perform with the Central Jersey Music Educators Honors Band.  Many students were nominated to participate in the event and 10 were selected from South Plainfield.  The students who participated were: Emily Wong on Flute, Joseph Cassio on Oboe, Sara DeSimone and Denise Bui on Clarinet, ...

Part Time Position in Municipal Court

The South Plainfield Borough is seeking to hire a part time person with strong customer service skills to perform detailed Municipal Court clerical work.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

Answering telephone and walk in inquiries, data entry, maintaining files and records for accuracy, processing payments, related duties as required.

Successful candidates should process ...

Upcoming Events


Sat, April 28, 9:00 AM

South Plainfield

Spring Wellness Health Fair - Mayor's Wellness


Sat, April 28, 9:00 AM

South Plainfield

South Plainfield's Annual Health and Fitness Fair


Sat, April 28, 7:00 PM

South Plainfield

A Tribute to our Veterans - Jim Barone


Sun, April 29, 2:00 PM

South Plainfield

Autism Awareness Event on April 29th


Sat, May 5, 9:00 AM


Color Me Run to End Domestic Violence


Diegnan, Pinkin and Karabinchak Hail Announcement of Grand Opening of New South Plainfield MVC Office

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ- Acting on their commitment to the citizens of Middlesex County, Senator Patrick Diegnan, Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin and Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak today announced that a new, modernized South Plainfield Agency is tentatively scheduled to open on Monday, May 14, 2018.

"I must complement the Motor Vehicle Commission for ending this potential crisis and express my ...

Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (Citadel Press, 1970)


How does a reviewer do justice to a book called “the great American novel”? I first read Johnny Got His Gun during the Viet Nam war, when young people, nationwide, were protesting fighting in a war that was a senseless waste of life; a war in which the United States had no business participating.


Your library is a hub of education and entertainment that is available to you not just when the library is open, but at all hours, thanks to our great online resources.  

If you want to brush up on your computer skills, or learn something new, try Learning Express.  You can access it through the library’s website. Once you’ve registered (you’ll need ...

Suburban Woman’s Club Fashion Show/Fund Raiser A Lot of Fun and A Great Success!

Heidi Klum would certainly approve of the Suburban Woman’s Club Annual Fashion Show and Fund Raiser held on Sunday, April 22nd.  One hundred fifty ladies enjoyed a lovely lunch and watched models of all shapes, sizes and ages walk the runway at the South Plainfield Senior Center. 

VP Jane Rundella, Co-Chair of this event, was the show’s narrator and provided the audience ...

Press Releases

Pack 224 bids Farewell to Arrow of Light Scouts

April 24, 2018

It is with great pride and pleasure that Riley School Cub Scout Pack 224 acknowledges the dedication of the Arrow of Light den members who are now officially Boy Scouts.  All three have chosen to join Boy Scout Troop 309.  Since they were in first grade, Kevin Casaliggi, Lorenzo Fuscoletti, and Colin Morris have dutifully and consistently completed the necessary requirements to reach ...