Assault and Retaliation
Settled April 2009
Newark police officer Francisco Vilasoa claimed in a state lawsuit (No. ESX-L-5761-08) that he was assaulted by a fellow officer, Lt. Vincent Ucci, and then retaliated against when he made complaints about the assault. Specifically, on September 6, 2007, in front of other police officers and at least one prisoner at the Fourth Precinct, Ucci engaged in an uncontrolled outburst of temper and curse words, and "tried to choke Vilasoa to death," leaving him with neck injuries and other bruising. Rather than properly investigating Ucci, the department relieved Vilasoa of his firearm 4 days later, and Internal Affairs officers escorted him to a hospital and put him out on stress leave. According to Vilasoa, the stated policy of the Newark Police Department is for all officers to conduct themselves in a non-discriminatory, non-harassing and non-retaliatory way, but that policy is not enforced against some officers, like Ucci, who have "a violent anger management problem, leading to abuse of other officers in the workplace." On or about March 24, 2009, the case settled with the taxpayers paying Vilasoa $90,000.00.
Note: None of Vilasoa's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement states that the $90,000 payment does not constitute an admission of liability by Newark or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Newark, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Vilasoa $90,000 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.