JURY GIVES EX-TINTON FALLS COP $5 MILLION

hot-topic rightA traffic stop in which a Tinton Falls policeman in an unmarked car was roughed-up by State Troopers resulted in a $5 million jury award yesterday, New Jersey Newsroom reports.

The August, 2004 gunpoint stop of then-Det. Gary Wade on the Garden State Parkway was captured on audio and video, according to the report.

From the report:

Gary Wade, 37, now of Woodbury, filed the suit maintaining he had down nothing wrong before State Trooper Michael Colaner pulled him over, hit him on the back of the head, pepper-sprayed him and handcuffed him face down.

The two-minute incident launched Wade on a nightmare ride, as he was suspended from his job, then fired after being convicted of obstruction of justice, and finally ordered to reimburse Tinton Falls for pay he received while suspended.

In a case spotlighting police practices as much as legal theories, a U.S. District Court jury this week decisively came down on Wade’s side. Jurors voted unanimously that Coalner had used excessive force and disregarded Wade’s rights.

They awarded Wade $500,000, plus $4.5 million in punitive damages, well above the $1 million figure he floated when filing the suit in 2006. U.S. Judge Freda L. Wolfson signed off on the verdict on Monday.

“Gary Wade is very pleased with the jury’s verdict,” said his attorney, Thomas Cunniff. “He’s been vindicated. He feels he’s finally gotten justice.”

Wade argued he was stopped because he violated an unwritten custom: never pass a State Trooper on the right. But State Police claimed Wade, now a substitute teacher, was driving recklessly.

Some facts were not in dispute. Colaner and his partner, David Ryan, were driving northbound in the Parkway’s left lane when Wade, driving an unmarked police car, passed them on the right.

They pulled him over, but on an audio tape recorded by Colaner’s microphone, Wade, an eight-year veteran of the Tinton Falls department, repeatedly asked the trooper to wait until his supervisor could respond to the scene. “You are pulling me over for no reason in my own town,” Wade told the trooper.