NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The city’s police department has opted to pay $75,000 to a man who sued them after the department wrongly arrrested and imprisoned him for nearly a year.
Jose Granados-Joya alleged in a lawsuit that officers arrested twice as many people as they should have after a fight in February 2011, and gave false testimony to a grand jury later that year, keeping him in prison for eleven months.
Officials confirmed the two additional victims of false arrests did not pursue cases against the government to conclusion, but they did not object to repeated characterizations that Granados-Joya had been falsely imprisoned.
The city’s longtime attorney William Hamilton acknowledged that Granados-Joya spent eleven months “in the can for reasons that I can’t explain.”
“It apparently arose with a big scramble in the street,” that eventually led to an assault, Hamilton told New Brunswick Today.
City Council President Escobar was caught off guard by tough questions from this newspaper about the incident for the second City Council meeting in a row.
“I am not immediately opinion there because I have no details about the case,” said Council President Rebecca Escobar. “Obviously, it was found that it was an unfortunate incident, but I don’t know any details to give an opinion on it.”
Escobar would typically abstain from voting on expenses related to the case, indicating one of the police officer defendants was “like family” to her.
The Mayor’s Office declined to comment on the $75,000 settlement, the costs of which will be passed on to 22 different towns who participate in the Middlesex County Municipal Joint Insurance Fund.
Police Director Anthony Caputo and Captain JT Miller did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.
The original case was filed against former Middlesex County Proseuctor Bruce Kaplan, who has since become a judge, the Middlesex County Department of Corrections, the NBPD, and seven of its officers.
“There’s a system in the courts where bail is reviewed and can be reduced,” said Hamilton, the city attorney. “I don’t know why no effort was made to secure his early release back when he was locked up.”
According to Granados-Joya’s lawsuit, filed by Mazraani & Liguori, the men were finally freed after the indictment was thrown out in January 2012.
But that only occurred because the alleged victim came forward to provide testimony that contradicted NBPD Officer Kevin Conway, according to the lawsuit.
During a June 29, 2011 grand jury presentment, “Officer Conway negligently, recklessly and/or intentionally, testified falsely that six (6) individuals including [Granados-Joya] assaulted the alleged victims,” reads the lawsuit.
But the alleged assault victim later testified that they had told police there were only three suspects involved, raising questions about why six men were arrested in connection with the crime and effectively exonerating the three men held falsely.
Conway was also one of the two officers involved in the improper disposal of court documents after the author of this article witnessed another officer throwing official NBPD ticket books in a public trash can.
Two officers were reprimanded in the internal affairs case, but police officials have refused to identify them.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.