NJ corrections officer sues police over false arrest www.privateofficer.com
NEWARK NJ July 10 2010 — A Department of Corrections officer says Newark police framed him on a drug charge two years ago, causing him to contract scabies after spending a night in a city jail, according to a lawsuit filed in Essex County Superior Court.
Luis Velasco, a 33-year-old corrections officer with the state’s Juvenile Justice Commission, said he was denied due process and falsely arrested after Newark Police Officer Gregory Hamilton planted a bag of crack cocaine near him outside a South Ward apartment complex in October of 2008, according to the suit.
Velasco was suspended for seven months, according to the lawsuit, and lost his health insurance for a period of time.
“Mr. Velasco’s life was ruined and he wants to reclaim his reputation. He wants the city to have to account for what happened to him, said Velasco’s attorney, Jeffrey Patti.
The president of the city’s police union said the allegations are baseless, describing Hamilton and his partner Beverly Gravely as veteran officers with clean disciplinary records.
“You have two officers at 4 a.m. doing what they’re supposed to be doing, patrolling,” said union president Derrick Hatcher. “I think (Velasco) is just looking for monetary gain.”
Hamilton, Gravely, Fifth Precinct Captain Felipe Gonzalez, Police Director Garry McCarthy and the city of Newark are also named in the lawsuit.
Department officials referred media inquiries to a city attorney, who declined to comment.
According to the lawsuit, Velasco drove a friend to a Newark apartment complex on Oct 4, 2008 and was parked in a building lot when Hamilton and Gravely approached him. Hamilton ordered Velasco to exit the vehicle and handcuffed him before placing two glass pipes and a metal brillo pad inside, according to the suit.
Velasco explained he was a corrections officer and argued that the paraphernalia wasn’t his, according to the suit, but was ignored by both officers. The lawsuit contends that Hamilton planted a bag of crack cocaine near Velasco’s boot while he was handcuffed, and that Gravely ignored the Velasco’s pleas for help.
The police report tells a different version of events, in which the officers find Velasco slumped over inside his car. The report said Velasco was holding the drug paraphernalia when Hamilton approached him and that he smelled of alcohol.
The report includes that Velasco said he was a corrections officer. Hamilton was searching Velasco for a weapon when he located the drugs, according to the report.
Following his arrest, Velasco was housed at the city jail on Green Street, where the lawsuit alleges he endured “filthy squalid living conditions … where he was devoured by bed bugs.” The 33-year-old was diagnosed with scabies the day he was released from lock-up, according to the suit.
The corrections officer filed a report against the officers, but Hatcher said an internal investigation did not result in disciplinary action. The criminal charges against Velasco were dismissed by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office for lack of evidence in 2009, according to court documents.
Velasco had to surrender his badge after the arrest, but was reinstated once the drug charges were dismissed. The 33-year-old maintains that the arrest should never have happened.
“The word crack or crack dealer should not be mentioned with my name. It basically ruined my life, for the rest of my life,” he said.