1/5/2012New Jersey: Bar Owner Sues Cop for Parking Ticket Extortion
Lawsuit alleges Lawnside, New Jersey cop demanded payment from bar owner to stop her from issuing bogus parking tickets to patrons.
The owner of the Whitehorse Martini Bar is suing the Lawnside, New Jersey police department for its role in putting the pub out of business. According to papers filed last month, an officer was trying to shake Carl Pearson down for protection money. When he refused to pay, harassment including the issuing of bogus parking tickets scared away enough customers that the bar was forced to close its doors.
The Whitehorse had served the area for the past thirty years. Pearson acquired and reopened the business in July. According to the lawsuit, Officer Carmen Colon showed up every weekend she was on duty and parked her patrol cruiser directly in front of the entrance for several hours at a time. Colon would stop and question customers as they walked into the bar, scaring many of them away. She also began writing over sixty parking tickets in the bar's private parking lot as well as other nearby lots used by patrons.
"In the thirty years that a bar/restaurant had been in business at the Whitehorse Martini Bar location, its patrons never received parking tickets while parked in the bar's private parking lot, and/or the private parking lots surrounding it," the lawsuit stated. "Defendant police Officer Colon's repeated, consistent and systematic practice of issuing parking tickets to Whitehorse Martini Bar customers legally parked in private parking lots caused plaintiffs to lose a substantial amount of business."
When Pearson confronted Colon about her writing citations for legally parked vehicles, the officer filed a report claiming there was rampant drinking of alcohol in the Whitehorse parking lot. Neither the acting police chief, Lieutenant Lloyd Lewis or Mayor Mary Ann Wardlow responded to Pearson's complaints about Colon's conduct. About three weeks later, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office set up a sting operation to find out what was going on. Pearson's security guard was wired and told to give cash to give to Officer Colon. She responded, "Not now babe." Colon filed a report charging the guard with attempted bribery, but her report did not match the facts recorded on tape.
Colon is on leave from the Lawnside Police, but Pearson blames the department for doing nothing to stop the harassment that caused such a drop in business that he had no choice but to close in November.
Pearson now wants the borough to pay for the substantial losses he incurred as a result of the officer's conduct.