Paterson couple getting $200,000 settlement in police excessive force lawsuit | Paterson Times

Paterson couple getting $200,000 settlement in police excessive force lawsuit


The city is paying a couple $200,000 to settle their police excessive use of force lawsuit, according to municipal records.

Carlos Rodriguez and Darline Espinal claimed two police officers came to their home in response to an argument and punched both of them in the face.

Police officers David Baird and Victor Ungarian are named in the lawsuit.

On Jun. 9, 2012, Baird and Ungarian knocked on the couple’s apartment door. Rodriguez opened the door.

“What happened?” asked Ungarian, according to the pair’s court complaint.

“Nothing is wrong,” responded Rodriguez to the officers, “leave.”

Ungarian then allegedly punched Rodriguez without “provocation or justification” in the face, knocking him unconscious, according to the complaint.

Espinal came out of her room screaming, demanding answers from the officers.

“Why did you do that?” Espinal asked the officers.

Ungarinan turned around and punched Espinal in the face, alleges the suit.

“Espinal felt face down on the floor,” states the lawsuit. “Baird started stomping on her to keep her from moving.”

Rodriguez awoke from his unconscious state and seeing Espinal screaming, tried to get off from the ground.

“Ungarian saw him trying to get up and kicked him on the face splitting his head open by the eyebrow,” reads the suit.

Subsequently, Baird picked up Espinal, handcuffed her, and brought her downstairs. Ungarian remained with Rodriguez in the apartment for 10 minutes, according to the suit.

Rodriguez was also handcuffed. Ungarian allegedly struck Rodriguez with his baton on the head as he was handcuffed in front of another set of neighbors, according to the suit.

Both police officers — Baird and Ungarian — denied the allegations against them through their lawyers, according to court records.

Ungarian’s attorney disputed the couple’s assertion their dispute was just a verbal argument.

Rodriguez and Espinal’s episode began as a verbal dispute outside of their home. It was dragged indoors. A neighbor, heard the two arguing inside their apartment, knocked on the door to ask whether everything was alright.

Espinal informed the neighbor everything was fine, and the neighbor departed. 20-minute later Baird and Ungarian were knocking on the door.

The couple filed the lawsuit claiming the officers violated their civil rights and constitutional guarantees. The suit also claimed the officers attacked them because of their race. Rodriguez and Espinal are both Hispanic.

Members of the City Council discussed the case in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday night before approving the settlement in a 6-1 vote.

Councilman Michael Jackson voted against without providing a public explanation.

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