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Black Mayor Sues Police Department

 

Harrisonville, N.J. - South Harrison Township's first black mayor, who stepped down in November after he was a target of racial intimidation, has filed a federal lawsuit against local police and the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office alleging they did not discipline or prosecute a police officer he says pushed him.

Charles Tyson, who became mayor in January 2007, said he was worn down by racially motivated death threats, vandalism, and nasty politics directed against him.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Camden on Monday, Tyson alleges that rookie Officer Nicholas Barbetta shoved him during a conversation in front of Tyson's house in September 2008, not long after the incidents.

Police and the prosecutor failed to investigate his complaint, Tyson said, putting him in a "more vulnerable position." He claims the lack of action was based on his race.

Township Police Chief Warren Mabey referred the incident involving Barbetta to Sean Dalton, the prosecutor.

Both are white. Dalton found insufficient evidence to charge Barbetta with assault and suggested Tyson could file a complaint of simple assault in Municipal Court.

Tyson did so, in Salem County to avoid a conflict of interest in his hometown, and a municipal judge found Barbetta not guilty.

"He was vindicated," said his attorney, Ron Helmer. Neither Mabey nor Dalton would comment yesterday.

Tyson, whose lawsuit was filed by Moorestown lawyer William Buckman, alleges the lack of prosecution violated his civil rights and was discriminatory because he has a right "to be treated equally and enjoy the benefits of a system of law enforcement that is color-blind."

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

 



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