A lawsuit claiming three Atlantic City police officers illegally beat a man after he tried to burglarize a car wash will enter its third week Monday.
Steven Stadler, of Atlantic County, pleaded guilty to burglary and resisting arrest in 2013 after he tried to burglarize the business on Albany Avenue. He has since filed a lawsuit against the city, the Police Department and the three officers who arrested him, claiming he has permanent scarring and nerve damage after he was beaten during his arrest.
The three officers involved are Glenn Abrams, John Devlin and William Moore.
Tracey Riley, an attorney for the three officers, said Friday her clients are anxious for the jury to hear the full story in this case.
Stadler has admitted to abusing crack, painkillers and alcohol. He also admitted he was coming down from a high when he was breaking into the car wash and he was doing it to get money for more drugs.
“This is a circumstance where it’s easier to point fingers in the other direction than to take responsibility for his actions,” Riley said.
Attorneys for Stadler, however, say in the lawsuit Stadler’s case is part of a pattern where police routinely use excessive force and the Atlantic City Police Department purposely turns a blind eye.
The attorneys specifically pointed to eight cases between 2007 and 2012 in which Abrams allegedly kicked and punched unarmed defendants after they surrendered.
Abrams, who is the son of former police Capt. Glenn Abrams Sr., is also accused of stealing drugs, brass knuckles and knives that were considered contraband, and, in one other case, stealing a puppy during the execution of a search warrant at a woman’s home.
The lawsuit claims Abrams took the puppy to a relative’s house in Margate and then to a shelter to conceal the fact he stole it.
The puppy was eventually returned to its owner.
The lawsuit further states Abrams was given a “slap on the wrist” or not disciplined at all while the police department has “no meaningful internal affairs functions and bends over backwards to protect its officers and conceal misconduct from the public.”
Riley said she could not comment on previous excessive-force cases or speak for the department as a whole.
A call to the Atlantic City Solicitor’s Office was not returned. However, the city of Atlantic City has denied the allegations against the police department in court documents.
On March 13, 2013, Stadler broke into the closed car wash and tried to pry open a lockbox with a flat-head screwdriver. While he was trying to open the box, Abrams, who was not wearing his police uniform or badge, pulled up in an unmarked SUV and asked Stadler what he was doing.
Stadler responded it was “none of your business,” and when Abrams jumped out of the car, Stadler ran down an adjacent alley across from the Homerun Tavern, according to the lawsuit.
The suit says police had been on alert in that area because the car wash had been burglarized before.
Soon after running away, Stadler walked back onto Albany Avenue and was stopped by Moore, who told him to put his hands on the hood of the car. After putting his hands on the car, Stadler was handcuffed and then, the lawsuit says, Abrams walked up and punched him in the face.
Stadler also claims in the suit the two officers punched and kicked him repeatedly until he lost consciousness, while Devlin arrived and let a police K-9 loose on him.
On the witness stand Feb. 20, Abrams testified Stadler was resisting arrest by flailing and throwing punches. Abrams added he kept yelling at Stadler to stop resisting. Overall, Abrams described Stadler’s arrest as a “violent struggle.”
After the arrest, Stadler was taken to the hospital.
He was then taken to the Atlantic County jail, where his wounds reopened and began bleeding again.
Stadler, who took a plea deal on charges of burglary and resisting arrest, says he has permanent nerve damage, permanent scarring and a “hole in his leg” from the incident, according to the lawsuit.
Stadler’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean said the officers in this case are “pathological liars.”
“My client’s injuries are consistent with his version of events,” Bonjean said. “The officers here were not injured at all. If this was a violent struggle, there would have to be at least a little bit of evidence of that. The evidence will speak for itself.”
Riley, however, said there are circumstances when an officer is allowed to use force.
“Under New Jersey law, a police officer is permitted to use physical or mechanical force in certain circumstances, such as resisting arrest or to protect another officer,” Riley said. “(Stadler) pleaded guilty to resisting arrest in this case.”