What do Paterson cop’s convictions mean for pending lawsuits?

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PATERSON — City taxpayers may end up paying the price for the excessive force crimes committed by Police Officer Kevin Patino.

While Patino stood before a federal judge on Thursday admitting he assaulted two Paterson residents in separate incidents, the attorneys representing his victims in lawsuits against the city sat in the courtroom looking on.

Both lawyers subsequently issued statements to Paterson Press about Patino’s guilty pleas.

“Today marks a pivotal moment in the pursuit of justice for our client,” said Abdul Hamden, part of the legal team for one of Patino’s victims, Osamah Alsaidi. “The guilty plea entered by officer Patino is a significant and outright acknowledgment of the assault under color of law that occurred. This outcome not only affirms our client’s courage in standing up for his rights but also serves as a testament to the importance of accountability in our justice system.”

Paterson police headquarters at the Frank X. Graves Jr. Public Safety Complex in April 2021.
Paterson police headquarters at the Frank X. Graves Jr. Public Safety Complex in April 2021.

The attorney for the other man Patino admitted assaulting, Rosdward Hernandez, also praised the outcome of the criminal cases.

“I think that the civil rights division of the US Attorney's Office deserves a lot of credit in investigating these incidents and obtaining this plea,” said Christopher Fitzgerald, Hernandez’s lawyer. “Allowing the defendant to plead to a misdemeanor but insisting that it include the assault on Mr. Hernandez tells me that the DOJ sees this behavior as a wider systemic issue within the department rather than just one rogue cop who they can throw the book at.”

How will the convictions affect civil claims?

Neither attorney talked about Patino’s convictions in terms of the financial impact on their civil claims.

But their pending cases assert that Patino’s attacks against their clients stemmed from a longstanding culture of wrongdoing in the Paterson Police Department, one they said city officials allowed to continue unchecked.

Paterson taxpayers already have paid millions of dollars in legal settlements in numerous other police misconduct cases in recent years.

On Wednesday, the day before Patino made his two guilty pleas, lawyers for Alsaidi and the city met elsewhere at the federal courthouse in Newark to discuss a possible deal in that lawsuit. One of the city’s attorneys in a Feb. 5 letter suggested to the judge in the civil case that it would be prudent to wait for the conclusion of the criminal proceedings before moving on.

There’s a significant difference between Patino’s cases and federal authorities’ convictions of the infamous self-proclaimed “robbery squad” of six rogue cops. The robbery squad’s victims — mostly suspected drug dealers — didn’t sue the city.

Alsaidi’s lawsuit accuses a second Paterson cop, Kendry Tineo-Restituyo, of participating in the assault. Patino said in court Thursday that the other officer, whom he didn’t name, slammed Alsaidi to the ground. Tineo faces pending criminal charges as well as the lawsuit.

Patino and Tineo-Restituyo have been on paid administrative leave since May 2021, shortly after the criminal charges were filed against them. Payroll records show that both officers' salaries are $61,185. The two cops continued to get contractual pay increases while on leave for the pending criminal charges. At the time they were first accused, their salaries were $49,117, city records show.

Earlier: Paterson cop Kevin Patino takes misdemeanor plea deal in two assaults

What did officials say?

Neither Mayor Andre Sayegh nor Police Department officials responded to a reporter’s inquiries about Patino’s city employment status considering his convictions. In the past, cops have been removed from the Paterson payroll almost immediately after they pleaded guilty to crimes.

But those instances involved felony convictions. Patino’s plea was for misdemeanor charges of depriving his victims of their civil rights. His job status did not come up for discussion during Thursday’s federal court hearing.

Patino faces a maximum of one year in prison for each conviction, but the federal courts use sentencing guidelines that almost always impose lesser penalties. His sentence also could entail supervised release, the judge said.

Paterson Black Lives Matter leader Zellie Thomas expressed displeasure with the outcome in the Patino case.

“Someone convicted of assaulting an officer faces far stiffer penalties than when an officer assaults a civilian,” Thomas said. “It's an example of how systemically law enforcement is protected in all stages of the process, from internal investigations to sentencing. Because of that, it doesn't always feel like accountability to victims or their communities.”

Patino's lawyer responds

In a statement Saturday, Patino's attorney, Todd Spodek, said, "Mr. Patino, a decorated police officer and veteran, deserves to put this matter behind him. I wholeheartedly applaud the U.S. Attorney's Office decision to offer a misdemeanor resolution to the case and dismiss the indictment."

Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press. Email: editor@patersonpress.com

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: What Paterson NJ police officer convictions mean for lawsuits