Day 3: Lighty v. City of Newark

Excessive Force
Settled January 2009

banner_police_citi_200: The Settlement Project: Citizen Edition

Saleem Lighty was stopped by Newark Police Department (NPD) Officers Alan Knight, Michael Morgan #9788, Joseph Conzentinos #6731, and Angel Vila #8039 on September 25, 2006. The stop occurred on Clinton Street between 16th and 17th Streets. A check of his name revealed an outstanding warrant. The officers did not advise him of the warrant, and when Mr. Lighty asked why he was being arrested, an officer hit him in the face and fractured his jaw. The other officers failed to intervene. His federal lawsuit (No. 06-cv-5977) was settled in or about January 2009, with Newark paying Lighty $60,000 for the excessive force used by NPD officers.

For at least three members of the police team involved in injuring Mr. Lighty, this was not their only brush with the law:

  • Alan Knight has been investigated by Internal Affairs 62 times, including 26 allegations by citizens of conduct, excessive force, or improper arrest. He faces another federal lawsuit (No. 09-cv-801) for severely beating Jose Quinonez in a June 2008 incident.
  • Michael Morgan and Joseph Cozentinos are accused, in an administrative filing, of assaulting and falsely arresting Rasheed Suber on October 31, 2009. In addition, Morgan has filed more Use of Force Reports than any other NPD officer—20 in all—for the 2006 to 2009 time period.

Note: None of Lighty's 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 Lighty $60,000, 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 against the other identified officers have also not yet been proven or disproven in a court of law; at this time, they are simply allegations in a pending lawsuit or other legal document.

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