Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed Against County Prosecutor and Police Department for Allegedly Striking Man With Police Cruiser to Arrest Him for Taping Movie

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A Federal Civil Rights lawsuit was filed in Federal Court in Trenton today by a Martinsville man who alleges police intentionally mowed him down with a police car to arrest him for taping a movie without permission.

A Federal Civil Rights lawsuit was filed in Federal Court in Trenton today by a Martinsville man who alleges police intentionally mowed him down with a police car to arrest him for taping a movie without permission. The complaint entitled Epifan v. County of Somerset,3:11-cv-02591-FLW-TJB, filed in U.S. District Court District of New Jersey, alleges that in the summer of 2009, the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (“MPAA”) was investigating the unauthorized taping of movies. The MPAA is an industry group that protects the financial interests of major motion picture studios including Paramount Pictures, Sony Entertainment and Universal Studios. The complaint further alleges that from monitoring internet chat rooms, the MPAA believed Timothy Epifan, 22, was going to tape without permission the movie “Bruno” at the Reading Cinemas in Manville, N.J. Upon learning this, the MPAA assisted in assembling a joint task force involving the Somerset County Prosecutors Office and the Manville Police Department aimed at catching Epifan in the act. MPAA persuaded authorities to assemble a force of over two dozen officers and investigators to accomplish this.

According to the complaint, on July 9, 2009 members of the MPAA task force followed Epifan from his parents’ home where he lived to the Reading Cinemas. He was found inside the theater with a handheld camcorder taping the movie. Task force members waited until the movie ended and Epifan left the theater to confront him in the cinema parking lot. Officers approached him at his car and he fled on foot. He was pursued in the cinema parking lot by officers on foot and others in vehicles. The complaint further alleges that Epifan ran about 140 yards, around the side of the theater, and then stopped. Subsequently, a police vehicle driven by Francisco Roman, a Detective Sergeant with the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, ran into the backside of Epifan, dragging him under the vehicle. The collision and subsequent dragging left a 10 foot trail of skid marks of bone, blood and skin. He sustained severe leg fractures, has undergone multiple surgeries, incurred hundreds of thousands in medical bills and now walks with a cane.

“The MPAA and police took this way out of proportion,” John Bruno, Esq., Epifan’s attorney commented. “He comes from a good family and has absolutely no history of violence. All the police had to do was tap my client on the shoulder in the movie theater and say, ‘come with us,’ the circumstances did not justify the degree of force used by the police,” Bruno said.

Gerald H. Clark, Esq., a civil rights attorney who also represents Epifan commented, “this was not a violent crime and no one was at risk. There was no basis to justify this unnecessary use of deadly force to apprehend Mr. Epifan.” Clark commented that the lawsuit is necessary to compensate Epifan for the harms and losses he suffered. “The community needs to be confident that the police will not use excessive force when apprehending a suspect and that if they do, they will be held accountable.”

CONTACT: JOHN BRUNO, SR., ESQ.- 201-460-9494 or GERALD H. CLARK, ESQ.- 732-443-0333

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Gerald H. Clark, ESQ
Clark Law Firm
(732) 443-0333
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