Phone: (732) 544-1460
June 15, 2017
HAMILTON – Ronald Saintil had just gotten home from his job as a painter, kicked off his paint-stained shoes and was lounging on his couch when his door was broken down by township police officers and a detective from Carteret started screaming demands at him, according to the federal civil rights lawsuit Saintil filed against the officers.
The detective, Thomas O’Connor, would have driven more than 45 miles away from the Carteret Borough Police Department to invade Saintil’s home, as the plaintiff alleges in the lawsuit, along with 15 Hamilton Township police officers. They responded to his residence on Jan. 30, 2015 “allegedly in connection with an incident that occurred in or about Carteret” that took place the day prior.
The lawsuit says that “without warning, and without lawful jurisdiction,” the 15 invading officers broke through the entrance door to Saintil’s apartment.
The officers “who forcefully invaded his home displayed a military-level of firepower designed to confront an insurgency of many, not a single, exhausted individual who was doing nothing more than resting in his home after a hard day of work,” the lawsuit claims.
Saintil was “stunned and frightened,” the lawsuit says, but the officers “trained their weaponry at him, menaced him, and questioned him as to his whereabouts and activities on January 29, 2015.”
Saintil, however, “explained that he was and had never been in Carteret” but was in Pennsylvania the past three days for a painting job, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in January.
Even though Saintil said he could provide witnesses to verify his account and produce documents from his car, which was parked outside his apartment, that would prove he was out-of-state for work, the “police ignored” the information and “proceeded to arrest him and remove him from his home,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also lists as defendants Hamilton Township, Hamilton Township police, Middlesex County, Carteret Police Chief John Pieczyski, Hamilton Police Chief James Collins, the detective from Carteret, 15 officers from Hamilton Township, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office Investigator Sgt. James Napp, Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Gregory Morris, along with 30 John Does from the Middlesex Coutny Prosecutor’s Office, Carteret Police Department and Hamilton Township Police Department.
The lawsuit was filed six months before a Carteret police officer, Joseph Reiman, was charged with aggravated assault and three counts of official misconduct in connection with an alleged assault of a teen who suffered significant bodily injury during an arrest in late May.
The officer is the brother of Carteret Mayor Daniel Reiman. Officer Reiman was placed on administrative leave and the case was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey concerning the boy’s federal civil rights.
After Saintil was arrested, he was taken to the Hamilton Township Police Department, where he was questioned and booked before being taken to jail on $100,000 bail, according to the lawsuit. Saintil had no prior convictions or arrests
“It was hindering his own apprehension,” said David Schwartz, the attorney representing Saintil in the case. “Nothing related whatsoever to the other case” in Carteret.
“I’m not saying that he was ever even a suspect,” Schwartz said. “I wouldn’t say that he was a suspect. He was someone that they felt might have some information on what happened. That could mean a lot. He was never a suspect.”
He was arrested while “sitting in his apartment in his long underwear on the couch after a full day of work in Pennsylvania,” he said.
Media reports from Jan. 30, 2015 said there was a body found inside a home being renovated in Carteret. ABC News said the man was identified as Anthony Mocci, 50. Latter reports from February note that an Irvington man, Adison Trigueno, was charged with the murder.
“There was a gentleman who was found dead somewhere in Carteret and they were looking to interview who might have known something about it,” Schwartz said.
The Carteret Police Department and a spokesman for the borough did not respond with comment.
The lawsuit says that Saintil’s personal items, including his laptop, cellphone and car, were “unlawfully seized.” The hindering apprehension charge brought against him were dropped by Hamilton Township Municpal Court and he was released on his own recognizance after his bail was eliminated.
While Saintil was in jail, however, he had been evicted from his residence by the apartment complex owners “due to the police investigation and the physical damage” caused by the police officers, according to the lawsuit.
When Saintil “returned to his residence, the entry way door had been replaced and the locks were changed such that he was barred from entry.”
In his federal civil rights lawsuit, Saintil is seeking compensatory damages, economic damages and the cost of the suit.
“They’ve all been accused of violating his civil rights,” Schwartz said.
The amount of damages will be determined during the course of the litigation.