WATCH: New Jersey Cop Gives Up on Reinstatement After Fourth Brutality Case

BERKELEY, New Jersey – A township patrolman, now facing his fourth federal excessive force lawsuit, has dropped his bid to return to active duty. He has retired instead.

Patrick J. Stesner, 42, retired as of March 1, township Administrator John Camera told the Asbury Park Press. The application for retirement ended Stesner’s civil suit demanding reinstatement to active duty.

Stesner had been on paid leave for roughly a year. He has been a defendant in two lawsuits that each cost the township’s insurance carrier $110,000 to settle, and is currently a defendant in two more suits.

He is not the only officer to appear in any one lawsuit, but he is the only officer to appear in as many as four.

Stesner “was definitely the heavy in each of those cases,” said Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold firm Mallon & Tranger. Mallon has represented four men who have sued Berkeley officers in federal court since 2008. Two of those lawsuits, on behalf of 59-year-old Heriberto Carrasquillo and 60-year-old Philip Giannattasio, are still active.

Stesner has been a township police officer since September 2003, according to state pension records.

In 2010 the township settled a lawsuit from Michael Forte, who claimed Stesner and other police used excessive force when arresting him.

In 2014 the township again settled, this time with with Darren Yurick, who claimed Stesner and another officer “assaulted” him while he was handcuffed in a holding cell. That encounter was captured on camera. The footage from the incident is at the top of this article.

The township and police denied wrongdoing in both lawsuits, and made no admission of wrongdoing when they settled.

Stesner, patrolmen Steven M. Kappock and Ryan J. Wahl and possibly other officers “used excessive and unreasonable force” against Giannattasio in a June 13, 2016, arrest “by grabbing him, pushing him onto a table on his deck, kicking out the table and pushing him onto the deck floor,” Mallon wrote in a civil complaint.

Giannattasio was trying to enter through a window in a tenant’s rental unit on Giannattasio’s own property when police approached him, Mallon wrote. The “tenant’s father had refused to return (Giannattasio’s) keys to the rental premises.”

The police asked Giannattasio for ID. He said it was inside and was going to get it when they grabbed him, Mallon said.

Police charged Giannattasio with aggravated assault, illegal eviction and resisting arrest, but he pleaded down to disorderly conduct, Mallon said.

The timing of the Giannattasio encounter may line up with a section from Stesner’s own lawsuit. Stesner claimed in his complaint that, in June 2016, he “was involved in an incident with a civilian” where he “was trying to lock up the civilian, became frustrated and lost his temper.”

That incident led to him being “pulled off road duty” in November 2016 and sent for a fitness-for-duty examination, he claimed. A psychologist determined Stesner was “fit to return to work” but advised he go to anger management counseling, which he did, Stesner claimed.

Stesner’s counselor in turn recommended a neurological exam, which Stesner underwent on April 26, 2017, according to his lawsuit. “During this time period (Stesner) was placed on a paid leave of absence,” wrote his attorney for that case, Matthew R. Curran.

Carrasquillo filed his lawsuit in July 2017. He claimed that Stesner and patrolmen Taylor Butler and Christopher Elliott used excessive force while arresting him in on May 1, 2016. The township denied any excessive force in its formal response in federal court.

The Asbury Park Press reported the first three lawsuits in January, in the runup to publishing “Protecting the Shield,” a two-year investigation into police misconduct in New Jersey.

Giannattasio filed his lawsuit in February.

Stesner’s attorney, Robert F. Renaud of Cranford firm Palumbo, Renaud & DeAppolonio LLC, denied the excessive force and other allegations in court documents.

The township has not yet responded to Giannattasio’s claims. Camera declined to comment on the case.

Stesner dropped his suit seeking reinstatement March 13, according to court records. The month before, the township council agreed to extend Stesner’s paid leave through the end of March, according to the minutes from the council’s Feb. 26 meeting.

Stesner’s chosen retirement date — March 1 — superseded that agreement, Camera said. Stesner never went back to active duty.

Stesner’s most recent salary was $108,071, according to state pension records. It is unclear what sort of pension the state might award him. His name was not on the agenda for the March 12 meeting of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, according to records from the state treasury department’s Division of Pension and Benefits.

Camera said none of the other patrolmen named in Carrasquillo’s or Giannattasio’s suits was put on modified duty, and none had taken a leave of absence.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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