Civil trial starts for 3 cops accused of beating burglar unconscious

A federal jury will hear opening statements Wednesday as they try to decide whether the Atlantic City Police Department violated the civil rights of a man who claims he was beaten unconscious by several officers.

Steven Stadler, 49, of Glen Gardner alleges in his lawsuit that after his arrest for a suspected burglary in 2013, he found himself in the hospital with bruises, cuts and a thigh that was bleeding profusely from where a police dog had sunk his teeth.

His attorney, Jennifer Bonjean of Brooklyn, plans to argue that the police department has a tradition of not training officers well on use of force and a culture where abuses are ignored or covered up.

One of the use of force cases she referenced in court documents to prove the pattern of abuse was one in which she won her client, David Castellani, a $3 million settlement against the Atlantic City Police Department. Castellani was 20 when he was kicked out of a casino and subsequently tackled by police and bit on the neck by a K9.

The Atlantic City Police Department’s public information officer referred comment to the city solicitor, who could not be reached Monday evening.

Steven Stadler  

The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Camden names as defendants the city, the police department, police officers Anthony Abrams, John Devlin and William Moore, as well as the AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center and Dr. Eric Wolk, who allegedly treated him for his injuries.

In denying a motion for summary judgement last fall, Judge Robert B. Kluger wrote that the three defendant officers have more than 69 internal affairs complaints in a 10-year period. Of those, 38 claimed excessive force but none were ever substantiated, the judge wrote.

The police department’s description of Stadler’s arrest, given to the Press of Atlantic City in 2013, differs greatly from what Stadler is alleging in the lawsuit.

They told the newspaper that off-duty Officer Anthony Abrams was driving by a car wash at 10 p.m. March 13, 2013 when he heard an alarm and suspected Stadler was breaking in.

The article said that when Abrams identified himself as an officer, Stadler punched him in the face. However, use of force reports in the incident indicate neither Abrams or the other officers involved were injured. Abrams did not report being punched to the dispatcher, according a judge’s summary of the facts contained in court documents.

The police told the Press of Atlantic City that Stadler continued resisting after K9 Officer John Devlin arrived on scene, and punched and kicked the dog, which bit him.

The report says only that Abrams was treated for a cut on his nose and hands, but his mugshot and photographs of him in the hospital, provided by his attorney, show he has substantial injuries to his leg and an eye that was swollen shut.

Stadler’s version of events does not have him punching anyone, and claims he was unconscious when the dog was set on him.

The lawsuit admits Stadler was trying to open a…

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