Inside Ocean County Government


Tuckerton: Borough Settles Indicted Police Officer’s Civil Rights Lawsuit

TUCKERTON – The borough has settled a lawsuit filed by police officer Justin Cherry against the police department and Chief Michael Caputo. Cherry, who was indicted in 2015 in connection with an incident where his K9 attacked a Barnegat woman, claimed that he faced retaliation from the chief and faced false allegations.

Under the terms of a settlement agreement made public in August, the Borough paid Cherry an $8,225.36 settlement and forgave $16,774.64 in health premiums that it claimed was owed by Cherry.

Cherry, who worked as a K9 officer, claimed in two separate lawsuits – one state and one federal – that he faced “demeaning and harassing” conduct from his boss, Tuckerton Police Chief Michael Caputo.

The full details of the settlement and copies of the documents were first published by John Paff on his website, NJ Civil Settlements. Paff obtained the settlement agreement under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act (OPRA), a state freedom of information law that allows citizens to obtain public records.

In his original report concerning the Cherry lawsuit’s allegations Mr. Paff wrote:

“Cherry’s most serious allegation, however, was that Caputo conspired with Sergeant Christopher Anderson “to fabricate allegations” about the January 29, 2014 incident underlying Cherry’s indictment “in order to achieve a termination of [Cherry’s] employment.”  Cherry claimed that Borough officials intentionally sent notice of a meeting at which his employment would be discussed to the wrong address in order to deprive him of his right to attend that meeting. Cherry was suspended with pay on February 4, 2014 and without pay on April 9, 2014–the same day he was arrested by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.”

Cherry also claimed that he missed out on training opportunities and was falsely accused of hacking Caputo’s email account out of retaliation. The borough denied the allegations and no admission of liability was made with the settlement, as is customary in settlement agreements.

In 2015, an Ocean County grand jury handed down a litany of charges against Cherry in connection with the K9 incident, to include third-degree aggravated assault,  tampering with public records,  hindering his own apprehension, and false swearing, in addition to second-degree official misconduct.

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