Another American city appears to be stuck footing the bill after the brazen and reckless actions of one of their officers. Paterson taxpayers are looking at a cool $4 million for a lawsuit filed against Paterson police officer Ruben McAusland. The officer reportedly attacked a hospital patient while he (McAusland) was under investigation by the FBI, which by that time had already gathered extensive evidence of drug crimes.
McAusland admitted during his guilty plea in federal court on Wednesday, selling drugs to an informant doubling as a drug dealer. He also admitted to injuring a man’s face so badly that he needed to undergo surgery. That man was considered a suicide patient at St. Joseph’s Regional Hospital. The officer did this while on duty AND in uniform. He also filed a false police report to cover up his crime. McAusland ratted out his partner, Roger Then, saying he participated in the beatdown and coverup and alleged Then recorded the incident on his cell phone.
“Instead of pulling him off the streets, they let him continue to put people at risk,” said Zellie Thomas, a city schoolteacher and leader of Paterson’s Black Lives Matter group.
The city is acknowledging that McAusland’s guilty plea will make it harder for them to fight the lawsuit. According to NorthJersey.com, the case has community leaders wondering why authorities did not arrest McAusland sooner, before he committed what could turn out to be a very costly assault.
Nancy Lucianna, an attorney from Fort Lee who has handled several civil lawsuits accusing Paterson police officers of wrongdoing, said the assaulted patient – Andrew Casciano, 29, of Paterson – has a strong case against the city.
“This is a clear case of negligent retention of a police officer,” said Lucianna. “The city should have known that he was unfit to serve and he should have been removed.”
Lucianna said city police officials could have reassigned McAusland to a desk job to protect Paterson residents while the probe continued. “The safety of the general public is paramount,” she said.
Retired Newark Police captain, Jon Shane, understands the concerns but argues that reassigning the “bad apple” would have jeopardized the case.
“The minute you take him off the road, you’re indirectly letting him know what’s going on,” Shane said. “He knows what he’s involved in. He doesn’t know at all – or the extent to which — you know what he’s involved in. But the minute you take him off the road, you kind of tip your hand.”
“Leaving McAusland in his natural environment a little longer, if only to find other illegalities in which he might be involved, is the natural course of an investigation,” Shane said.
The United States Attorney’s Office declined specific comment on the handling of the case. “We can only discuss what’s in the public record,” said Deputy Public Affairs Officer Will Skaggs.
Besides McAusland and Then, two other Paterson cops – Jonathan Bustios and Eudy Ramos – have been charged with crimes as part of the same federal probe. Bustios and Ramos were arrested nine days prior to McAusland and authorities have not revealed how or if their cases are connected.
“It’s not as simple as you think,” said Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale speaking in general. “I’ve worked on thousands of wires and you don’t realize the magnitude of all the people involved when you’re working on a wire.”
When targeting cops and balancing public safety he said, “you also have to know that they have a job to do – to root out the corruption.” Doing so and catching corrupt cops is difficult enough.
“The cop’s really smart; he knows how the department works,” Shane said. “The minute you start poking around, they shut it down.”
So now the city of Patterson is looking at $4 million lawsuit which based on the evidence, they will have to settle. They can’t win in court especially after McAusland’s guilty plea. The injuries sustained by the victim include a fractured eye and the need for a plate to be implanted in the victim’s face.
The city’s general budget covers payouts on cases of up to $500,000. Costs that exceed that amount are covered by an “excess” insurance policy.
“The police are accountable to no one except themselves, and there doesn’t seem any willingness to change that,” blames councilman William McKoy. He acknowledges a long-standing problems with police accountability he has experienced during his 18 years on the governing body.