Day 2: Stewart v. Gonzalez

False Arrest
Settled January 2010
$90,000

banner_police_citi_200: The Settlement Project: Citizen Edition

Thomas Michael Stewart operates a legitimate towing business that had been contracted to tow improperly parked vehicles from an apartment complex in Belleville. After towing seven illegally parked vehicles from the complex, Newark Police Department (NPD) Captain Felipe Gonzalez ordered the arrests of Mr. Stewart and two of his employees on or about May 11, 2007. Captain Gonzalez had them detained for a lengthy period of time and seized their property. Then, no charges were pursued and all records of the incident were destroyed. In or about January 2010, the City of Newark paid plaintiffs $90,000.00 to resolve the lawsuit (No. ESX-L-3584-08/ 08-cv-3250 following removal). Captain Gonzalez remains as the precinct commander in charge of Newark's 5th Precinct, which covers the southern parts of the city.

This was not Captain Gonzalez's only brush with the law. He is being sued by Darren Billings, in a state lawsuit (No. ESX-L-466-10), on claims that on or about September 23, 2008, Captain Gonzalez negligently injured him in a motor vehicle accident near Nye & Bergen Aves. Also, Captain Gonzalez is named as a defendant in a third lawsuit, brought by Luis Velasco (No. ESX-L-2561-10), which alleges that 2 officers under his command planted drugs and paraphernalia on the innocent man on October 4, 2008.

Note: None of Stewart's or his employees' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. While the parties freely agreed to settle this case, all that is known for sure is that Newark, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Stewart and his employees $90,000, rather than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial—it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened—or what consequences, if any, came to the individuals accused in the suit.

The other claims discussed have also not yet been proven or disproven is a court of law; at this time, they are simply allegations in pending lawsuits.

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