ACLU of PA Secures Settlement for NJ Turnpike Racial Profiling Victims

August 20, 2002 12:00 am

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PHILADELPHIA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and cooperating law firms today ended a three-year racial profiling legal battle with the New Jersey State Police by securing a $250,000 settlement for three African-American motorists.

“This settlement shows New Jersey’s realization of the enormity of the humiliation inflicted upon African American male motorists by its state officers,”” said Stefan Presser, Legal Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The time has come for the state to offer similar compensation to all victims of racial profiling.”

Recipients of today’s settlement are Thomas White, 71, a decorated Korean War Veteran; Fred Hamiel, 43, a newspaper-advertising executive; and Tyrone Hamilton, 36, a juvenile corrections officer. All of the men were stopped without cause in separate incidents on the New Jersey Turnpike between 1997 and 1999. According to the lawsuit, the men were targeted and stopped because of the color of their skin.

“The anger, fear and mortification these men experienced will never leave them,” said Alan Yatvin, an ACLU of Pennsylvania cooperating attorney from the law offices of Popper & Yatvin. “Our clients knew they had done nothing wrong and so did the troopers who stopped them.””

White, Hamilton and Hamiel were all stopped twice by troopers on the turnpike. On neither of the two occasions that White was stopped did the officers even issue citations. Yet he had to endure not only the embarrassment of the stops, but also the insult of the searches that followed.

Hamilton was specifically told by a New Jersey trooper – who stopped him only minutes after he had previously been stopped and released without charge – that if he had only explained that he was a juvenile corrections officer he would not have been given a speeding ticket.

When Hamiel was stopped and ordered from his car, state troopers were unwilling to grant his request that his brother, who was in a cast from his foot to his groin, be allowed to remain in the car. Both men were subjected to full body frisks and then endured the further humiliation of watching police search their car. This was one of two times that Hamiel was subjected to such treatment.

The lawsuit was originally filed on behalf of four men. The fourth man, John McKenzie, a retired corrections officer, dropped out of the case due to illness.

“Although we are pleased that New Jersey officials decided to settle this case, John McKenzie’s situation is a prime example of why in this matter justice delayed truly is justice denied,” said Presser. “Had the state acknowledged earlier that these men were subjected to racially discriminatory law enforcement, John would undoubtedly be a recipient of the settlement.”

The ACLU of Pennsylvania and the law offices of Popper & Yatvin and Kairys & Rudovsky filed the federal lawsuit, White v. Williams, against the New Jersey Police in 1999 in U.S. District Court in Camden, NJ. Presser, Yatvin, David Rudovsky and William Buckman, an attorney in Moorestown, NJ, negotiated the settlement.

Previous news releases about this lawsuit and other racial profiling cases filed by the ACLU are available on the ACLU’s website at /PolicePractices/PolicePracticeslist.cfm?c=118

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