Unlawful search, Excessive Force and False Arrest
Settled June 2010
In 1999, Sharonda Qualls was called to testify in a homicide trial. She planned to offer testimony supporting the defendant's alibi. In an effort to intimidate her from testifying, an Essex County Sheriff's Detective stated he was going to pay a visit to her home in the Fourth Precinct and "knock down some doors." Despite the threat, she testified; the detective then repeated the threat after her testimony. The next day, an officer from the Newark Police Department (NPD) (an agency that regularly works with the Essex County Sheriff) obtained a search warrant for her home. One week later, after a mistrial was declared in the criminal case, 10-20 NPD officers raided her home on the basis of the then eight days old warrant which had been based on faulty information purportedly supplied by a confidential informant. During the raid, the officers involved ransacked Ms. Qualls' apartment, stole money and other property, and generally terrorized Ms. Qualls and her children. Ms. Qualls was also asked to submit to a body cavity search in the presence of male police officers. Despite this, she was never arrested or charged with any criminal conduct arising from this matter. Ms. Qualls commenced a federal suit (No. 01-cv-2680) against Newark, the Essex County Sheriff and the involved officers (who included NPD officers Willie Thomas, Stephanie Treadwell, Daryl Strickland, Gary Prystauk, Rocco Buglione and Julian Jova). In 2005, the City and some of the officers were dismissed as defendants; however, in June 2010, the case settled with the two remaining defendants. The City, on their behalf, made a $35,000 payment to Ms. Qualls.
Note: Except for the claims addressed in the motion to dismiss, none of Qualls' 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 Qualls $35,000, 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.