Crime Edward Minguela lawsuit alleges civil rights violations in Fairview arrest

21:40  23 february  2020
21:40  23 february  2020 Source:   courierpostonline.com

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CAMDEN - A city man has sued multiple Camden County police officers, claiming his civil rights were violated by the alleged use of excessive force during an arrest on a Fairview street corner.

Edward Minguela also names Camden County, a former county prosecutor and the former county police chief as defendants in his suit.

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“The fox has been guarding the hen house,” Minguela’s attorney, Devon Jacob, said after the excessive-force suit was filed in Camden federal court Friday.

The Camden County Prosecutor's Office does not comment on ongoing litigation, an agency representative said Saturday.

A Camden County spokesman could not be reached for immediate comment.

Minguela contends he was taken down from behind and beaten by Camden County Police officer Nicholas Romantino during the February 2018 incident.

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Romantino has said Minguela resisted arrest after several officers responded to a report of a man with a gun at Collings Road and New Hampshire Avenue.

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No gun was found during the incident, which was recorded by a surveillance camera at a nearby liquor store.

a man standing in front of a building: Edward Minguela of Camden © Courier-Post file photo Edward Minguela of Camden

Jacob on Friday said the prosecutor’s office “continues to pursue false criminal charges against Edward Minguela but declined to prosecute Nicholas Romantino for throwing Minguela to the ground and punching him in the back of his head 12 times.”

The prosecutor's office in April 2018 said it had determined police actions during the arrest complied with the Attorney General's use of force policy.

In announcing that decision, the prosecutor's office said Minguela "pulled his arm away" from Romantino's grasp before the man was knocked to the ground and punched repeatedly.

Jacob on Friday described the prosecutor's determination as "a ridiculous statement."

The attorney asserted Romantino repeatedly punched Minguela while the city man was "unarmed, passively laying on his stomach, with three fully trained and armed police officers sitting on his back."

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The lawsuit contends Minguela "instinctually pulled away slightly" when touched from behind by Romantino.

Minguela, who has said he suffered a broken wrist and a concussion, filed an excessive force complaint one day after the incident.

The lawsuit says Minguela, who asked to be taken to a hospital after the incident, was told he'd be jailed on a charge of assaulting a police officer if he accepted medical treatment.

The assault charge would be based on bruises to Romantino's hand, the lawsuit says.

"In the alternative, Minguela was told that if he refused medical treatment, he would be released that night with two citations — one for obstruction and  the other for resisting arrest," says the suit.

It says Minguela, who refused medical treatment on the night of the arrest, "was issued the two citations in an attempt to justify the unlawful force used against him and to avoid triggering internal department security."

Minguela sought hospital treatment on the day after the arrest, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also argues the prosecutor's office refused to dismiss the charges against Minguela "in an attempt to pressure Minguela not to pursue a civil remedy … and to have leverage to use against Minguela if he did pursue a civil remedy."

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The 22-page suit seeks unspecified damages.

Defendants in the suit include Romantino, Carr, three other officers involved in the arrest, and Camden County Police Chief Joseph Wysocki.

The suit also names former Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo and former Police Chief Scott Thomson as defendants.

Colalillo and Thomas "were responsible for enforcing proper policies within the police department," said Jacob, a Mechanicsburg, Pa., attorney.

Romantino faced federal criminal charges of violating Minguela's civil rights and falsifying records in connection with the incident. He was acquitted last year after two trials.

Romantino remains suspended without pay "and the county is moving forward with disciplinary actions," according to county spokesman Dan Keashen.

The state Civil Service Commission on Jan. 29 upheld a suspension of 10 working days and a demotion for Camden County police officer Odise Carr, formerly a sergeant on the force.

The commission supported an administrative law judge's finding that Carr failed to properly supervise Romantino during the arrest.

Jim Walsh is a free-range reporter who’s been roaming around South Jersey for decades. His interests include crime, the courts, economic development and being first with breaking news. Reach him at jwalsh@gannettnj.com or look for him in traffic.

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This article originally appeared on The Courier-Post: Edward Minguela lawsuit alleges civil rights violations in Fairview arrest

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