CORRECTION: This article about a federal court dismissing a malicious prosecution suit against Delaware Township police contained an inaccurate statement.
The suit was part of a longstanding dispute between Brett Roberts, 49, of Delaware Township, and his neighbor over a driveway easement. The article incorrectly stated, “Police have gotten involved on many occasions but charges filed against Roberts — including trespassing and harassment — were all dismissed.”
In fact, Roberts was found guilty of a petty disorderly person offense of harassment in municipal court last year. Judge Edward Martin fined Roberts $156 plus court costs and surcharges.
The inaccuracy has been corrected in the article that appears below.
DELAWARE TWP. — A federal malicious prosecution lawsuit has been dismissed as it pertains to local law enforcement.
The suit was filed in Hunterdon County and transferred to federal court.
Brett Roberts, 49, of Delaware Township has been embroiled in a longstanding dispute with his neighbors over a driveway easement. That dispute has led to several civil lawsuits and criminal charges on various levels.
Roberts was arrested on June 12, 2009, after being accused of threatening a then 9-year-old girl with a hammer in an ongoing dispute over a driveway easement. According to the suit, investigators withheld exculpatory evidence, namely a surveillance video from the accusing family’s camera that shows Roberts walking down the driveway. It is not clear what Roberts is carrying but the video does not show him raising his arms. The child that accused him is also not seen in the video, according to the suit.
The prosecutor eventually filed a motion dismissing the charges.
A conference is planned for June regarding the remaining defendants.
The suit details the feud between Roberts and neighbors on both sides of the driveway easement. Police have gotten involved on many occasions but charges filed against Roberts — including trespassing and harassment — were all dismissed. The parents of the girl were also charged with false swearing after one incident, but those charges were also dismissed, according to the suit.
Roberts and the two families have ended up in civil court over disputes involving use of the easement before, and there are currently two other active cases in Superior Court. In one case, the suit as it pertained to Roberts’ ex-girlfriend was dismissed on May 3.
In that case the woman was accused of chasing a boy who was driving a golf cart up the shared driveway. The boy’s parents claimed she was driving 40 miles an hour in pursuit of the golf cart to terrorize the boy. They filed charges in municipal court but the charges were dismissed after the judge reviewed surveillance video that showed the car traveling at a safe distance and at the same speed as the golf cart.
The accused woman successfully argued that the civil claims against her were based on that incident, which had already been disproved in municipal court.
The judge also agreed that the family “cannot demonstrate that any alleged emotional distress was caused by her conduct, rather than the long-running feud they have had with the Roberts” family.
In the federal suit Roberts is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages as well as the cost of filing suit. He said he has spent $50,000 defending himself against charges arising from the disputes with neighbors, charges which at the time the suit was filed had been dismissed.
In November, 2012, Roberts was found guilty of a petty disorderly person offense of harassment in municipal court because of the June, 2009 incident. According to the court transcripts, the harassment conviction was based on the surveillance video. It does appear that Roberts said something but the video did not include sound. The girl testified that he used vulgar and threatening language.
Judge Edward Martin based his decision on her testimony and the video. He found Roberts guilty of harassment but acquitted him of the charge of brandishing or threatening.” On the harassment charge he fined Roberts $156 plus court costs and surcharges but did not order any other punishment. He noted it was Roberts’ first offense.
The names of the neighbors have been withheld to protect the identity of the children involved.
Originally Posted @ http://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/index.ssf/2013/05/malicious_prosecution_suit_aga.html