Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Court dismisses lawsuit against officials accused of executing search warrant at wrong address.

Jennifer Webb-McRae
Cumberland County Prosecutor
On Monday, June 8, 2015, United States District Court Judge Noel L. Hillman dismissed a Millville couple's lawsuit against a Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office detective who had caused a search warrant to be executed at the couple's rented home at 726 Whitaker Avenue. According to the couple's lawsuit, the "search warrant indicated that the premises to be searched was 762 Whitaker Avenue" and that the detective apparently transposed two digits in the street address causing the wrong house to be searched.

In their Amended Complaint (on-line here) the couple, John and Mary Greer, said that Detective Francine Webb "did negligently identify [their] home to be searched" and that the resulting April 19, 2012 search caused them to suffer a wrongful arrest, personal injury and property damage at the hands of State Trooper I.J. Boland who had apparently executed the warrant to Webb's direction.

Judge Hillman, however, ruled that the Greers' complaint was "bare-bones" and did not contain enough details regarding the incident or their damages to withstand the defendants' motion to dismiss. According the Judge Hillman's opinion, "other than generally stating that Webb and Boland searched the wrong house and used excessive force, [Mr. and Mrs. Greer] do not ascribe any specific wrongdoing to Webb or Boland."  The complaint was ruled to be deficient because "everyone is left to guess as to Webb’s and Boland’s role in the execution of the search warrant at plaintiffs’ home." Hillman also criticized the Greers' complaint because it did not show that they had complied with the New Jersey Tort Claims Act.  Judge Hillman's Opinion and Order are on-line here and here.

Since more than two years have now elapsed since the search warrant was executed, it appears that the Greers cannot now refile their suit because the statement of limitations has now apparently run.  The Greers' lawyer in the matter was Joseph M. Chiarello of Jacob & Chiarello, LLC of Millville.