Turnpike authority approves $112K settlement for retired colonel over trooper stop on Parkway

Associated Press

The state's turnpike authority approved a preliminary legal settlement Tuesday that will pay more than $100,000 to a retired Army colonel who claimed a state trooper pointed a gun at him and his daughter during a traffic stop.

R. Timothy Leever sued Trooper Rodrigo Coelho after the stop on the Garden State Parkway in Colonia in 2010. Leever said he, his wife and their two daughters were traveling in two cars from New York to their home in North Carolina when they pulled into a service station.

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Leever claimed Coelho approached the car, ordered him out and pointed a gun at him and his daughter and threatened to shoot him. Leever said he was then handcuffed and detained for 30 minutes without explanation.

The suit claimed Coelho mistook Leever's Volkswagen Beetle for a Volkswagen Jetta he was seeking. The lawsuit alleged assault, use of excessive force, unreasonable search, false imprisonment and infliction of emotional distress.

In a court filing in 2013, Coelho denied the allegations and said he "acted with legal justification and probable cause based upon the then existing circumstances and/or the circumstances that he reasonably believed to exist." The VW he was seeking had "allegedly struck the median on the Garden State Parkway and proceeded on," according to the filing.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority approved a settlement that would pay Leever $112,500. The agreement was negotiated by attorneys representing agency, which indemnifies state troopers when they are acting in the course of their duties on the Turnpike or Parkway, according to a Turnpike Authority spokesman.

Gov. Chris Christie now has 10 days to veto or approve the settlement.

Lawyers for both sides didn't return messages seeking comment on the settlement.

Coelho remains employed as a trooper, a state police spokesman said.