Sirrano Keith Baldeo, publisher of the former Paterson Pulse tabloid newspaper, has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking $10 million in damages. He alleges council members violated his civil rights by allegedly targeting him and his publication.
Baldeo’s lawsuit mentions a series of alleged incidents that transpired between him and council members:
- Baldeo alleges councilman Michael Jackson harassed him and physically blocked him from gaining access to his car on Mar. 22, 2016. Later, Jackson allegedly passed by him and claimed Baldeo tried to hit him to remove him from City Hall using police.
- Baldeo accuses councilman William McKoy of violating his rights by not letting him speak at a council meeting on Apr. 5, 2016. He also accuses McKoy of throwing his newspapers into a garbage can.
- McKoy is accused of violating his First Amendment by allegedly not allowing him to film in the council chamber on Apr. 7, 2016. Baldeo also alleged McKoy removed him from a meeting using police officers
- Baldeo alleges the city targeted his newspaper now known as New Jersey Pulse News. For example, he was on the list of newspapers to receive public notices; however, he was removed from the list in July 2016. He claims the council placed his newspaper on a “banned” list. “After being on the list for 10 years, this was done maliciously by the council to retaliate against Mr. Baldeo,” reads his complaint.
- Baldeo accuses McKoy of assaulting him.
- Baldeo alleges councilman Andre Sayegh set a private investigator after him and his wife Stacey “to get revenge.”
The lawsuit names 11 former and current council members — McKoy, Ruby Cotton, Maritza Davila, Jackson, Alex Mendez, Kenneth Morris, Sayegh, Luis Velez, Shahin Khalique, Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman, Julio Tavarez. He also names the City of Paterson and employees – attorney Romina Pasqual and business administrator Nellie Pou.
“Here we go again. He’s trying to be relevant,” said Sayegh calling the lawsuit “frivolous.” He pointed out Baldeo had been fined more than $6,000 for filing frivolous municipal court complaints against city officials.
Baldeo’s official misconduct complaints against council members were dismissed late last year. The fees levied against him was also dismissed.
Sayegh said the allegation that he had a role in getting a private investigator to follow Baldeo and his wife is “categorically false.”
Baldeo called Sayegh a “serial liar” describing him as “cunning and crafty.”
Councilman Luis Velez, who was elected in 2016, wondered why his name was listed in the lawsuit.
“I came on the council after he disappeared,” said Velez. “He’s been violating everybody’s rights.”
Velez alleged Baldeo has been “slandering people” on social media using “un-factual information” and claiming everyone is corrupt without any factual basis.
“He says he cares about Paterson. He cares so much he is suing the city,” said Velez.
“He needs medication,” said Jackson when told of the lawsuit. “He’s assuming and hoping, if he puts a strong enough case, the city will decide to settle.”
“He’s trying to make money off Paterson,” said Jackson of Baldeo.
“If I wanted money from Paterson, as he said, they would have gotten sued the other 10 plus times they violated my rights,” responded Baldeo. He slammed Jackson for defaulting on an almost $140,000 loan issued by the Paterson Restoration Corporation.
Baldeo views himself as a crusader against corruption. He claims through his lawsuit he is taking a stand against allegedly corrupt municipal officials.
“This federal lawsuit is just and proper and will vindicate me for the vicious and political attacks on my press, my wife and me because I won’t support them for re-election. It is a federal suit so they won’t get the Democratic boss to block or obstruct justice there, hopefully,” said Baldeo on Tuesday.
Baldeo has criticized Passaic County judge Ernest Caposela for dismissing the official misconduct charges against council members.
Baldeo’s attorney Michael Kasanoff said the federal lawsuit will vindicate his client. He said Baldeo and his wife had to leave New Jersey for Texas due to fear of being targeted by council members.
“They felt such fear for their lives that they had to move to Dallas,” said Kasanoff.
“This perpetual state of fear caused Mr. and Mrs. Baldeo to install cameras [in] their cars, check for explosive devices with a mirror every day, and rush home to make sure their home was safe,” reads the court complaint.
Baldeo’s lawsuit says he was “in the process” of running for mayor in Paterson, but that had to be put off due to fear of “who the council was going to send after” him and his wife.
The city’s chief attorney Domenick Stampone said the city was served on Monday. “We have assigned outside counsel and are preparing answers,” he said.
Stampone has requested a closed session meeting with council members to discuss the case. Baldeo’s lawsuit was filed last Tuesday, according to court records.