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Teen Locked in Police Van Sues Borough, Fort Lee Police, Report Says

The attorney for one of the five teenagers left locked in a police transport van nearly two years ago filed a civil lawsuit in Newark.

A Fort Lee college freshman, who was among five minors left locked in a police transport van outside the Fort Lee Department in March 2011, has filed a civil suit against the borough, the police department and several police officers, according to a report.

Adam Kim was 17 on March 26, 2011, when he and four other teenagers were left in the van for more than 14 hours in freezing temperatures and without food, water or bathroom facilities.

Kim is seeking a jury trial, compensatory and punitive damages and contends in the lawsuit filed in federal court that police detained him illegally and violated his civil rights, NorthJersey.com reported.

Now former Fort Lee Police Chief Thomas Ripoli, who retired Monday after reaching the state-mandated retirement age of 65, is named in the lawsuit, along with at least 12 Fort Lee police officers, according to the report.

Three Fort Lee police officers were suspended almost immediately after the incident pending disciplinary hearings. Police also launched an internal investigation that Fort Lee officials said was concluded in late April 2011.

Officials said that at least eight police officers were disciplined in light of the investigation; borough administrator Peggy Thomas told Patch at the time that three officers received “major disciplinary action,” and that “about five more” received “minor disciplinary action,” adding that officials couldn’t release further details.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said in 2011 that at least one demotion was involved, along with “multiple days of suspension without pay.”

“A conclusion was reached as to what occurred, and it was determined that it was human error—nonetheless, an error,” Sokolich said.

Kim’s attorney, Nancy Lucianna, who filed a notice of claim—a pre-requisite to filing a lawsuit—in April 2011, told Patch at the time that the notice of claim has to be filed within 90 days but that a lawsuit can be filed up to two years after the incident.

“If they don’t give us an offer of settlement, we’re definitely going to file,” she said in June 2011.

Lucianna says Kim continues to suffer from emotional problems, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, nearly two years after the incident and has to take medication, according to the NorthJersey.com report.

William Mays January 02, 2013 at 08:36 PM
That punishment was a joke. They should have been fired. Suspended without pay for a few days is ridiculous.
edgewtrgirl January 03, 2013 at 02:53 AM
Agree. Total embarassment to the town.
Rona January 03, 2013 at 01:44 PM
2 years later back to this? Give us a break emotional problems? The vehicle wasn't in a junk yard waiting to get scrapped. What kind of settlement did they seek? I'm getting tired of this town's back door politics where the public doesn't know what it's administrators are doing. This should have been settled for a few bucks, but a lawsuit really?
Arthur January 03, 2013 at 01:49 PM
I agree, this is the Mother of all Whoppers for Fort Lee. Who is paying the Legal fees for all these Police Officers being sued personally ? I hope it is not the taxpayers, after all "it was only human error" Come on.... How much is this going to cost Ft. Lee ? Hope we have enough insurance....
Baba O'Riley January 03, 2013 at 02:13 PM
Another black eye / kick in the pants for Fort Lee! Between the Board of Education / School Administration and the PD I do not know which one embarrasses us more! If we are not the laughing stock of Bergen County then we are second.
Dan Cook January 03, 2013 at 03:57 PM
Hey I was on a field problem once in the Army and it was decided that the deuce & a Half's were over loaded bringing us out so the left us behind. About 6 of us were stuck there in the snow freezing our butts off until we were able to flag down a guy driving a 3/4 ambulance in the morning. So anybody reading this a lawyer and want to take on my case? Of course it was 1968 and things were a bit different then.
William Mays January 03, 2013 at 09:05 PM
This probably wouldn't have happened, or would have happened on a much smaller scale if the department had fired all of the officers involved, like any other normal police department would have done.
Art Elmers January 03, 2013 at 09:55 PM
I have always believed that whatever dollar settlement or jury award in these type of cases should come out of the next police contract. Maybe the amount of "human error" will be reduced if all officers have a personal stake in making sure that these things don't happen.
Jack B Goode January 04, 2013 at 01:54 AM
Interesting concept, but with Civil servants, we the people (SAPS= sorry ass payers) pick up the tab. Great system huh?
Fort Lee Truth January 04, 2013 at 08:14 AM
Since the taxpayers have to foot the bill for the settlements, why is that: 1) we are not allowed to know what the so-called "major disciplinary action" was and 2) the name of the officers?
Howard L. Pearl January 06, 2013 at 04:15 PM
We live in a litigious society. Anyone looking to make a quick buck sues. There is no doubt that there was negligence in this case. At the time, knowing full well that a lawsuit was a more than distinct possibility, consideration should have been given to a settlement at the time of the incident with all the families. This lawsuit could easily lead to multiple suits if Adam Kim should prevail. The sad part of this entire case is that these kids and their parents were not innocent victims. The arrest was warranted; the negligence was inexcusable.
The Thorn January 06, 2013 at 09:18 PM
So the officers made a human mistake, we should have a public hanging? So if we commit a mistake at work, we should be fired???? If I was arrested for the same reason that these kids were, my parents would have told the police to leave locked up to teach me a lesson. And when I will be released, I would get a beating from both parents. Everyone is on the lawsuit bandwagon, the get rich quick dream. I wish I could be chosen for that jury. To the truth....reason that the officers' names are with held is due retaliation to the officers' families.
Arthur January 08, 2013 at 02:57 AM
So sad, these young kids could have died, where is the justice ?
William Mays January 08, 2013 at 04:58 AM
It doesn't sound like a mistake. You can't mistakenly take the van out to a call with screaming kids in the back. This was intentional.
Fort Lee Truth January 11, 2013 at 06:58 PM
For those interested, there is a MUCH more detailed article in today's Subarbanite about the lawsuit. It lists all of the officers in the suit and is much more detailed in the allegations made by Kim's attorney.

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