A night in December 2009 started joyfully for Kimberly Sorrentino and her husband, Lawrence Rolnick, as they attended a holiday party in New York City. The Jersey Journal reports.
However, after the couple returned home, they say the evening became a nightmare, with township police forcing their way into the house, knocking down and injuring Sorrentino, arresting her son and his friend, and later filing charges against her husband, according to court papers.
According to the parent’s federal court lawsuit, on Dec. 22, 2009, Sorrentino and Rolnick’s adult daughter had a holiday party in New York, and arranged for a bus to bring people back to New Jersey.
The parents came back on their own at about 10 p.m., and the bus arrived back at their house at about 1:30 a.m., according to Donald DiGioia, a Mountainside attorney who represented them.
As people left the bus on the 500 block of Boulevard, police received a call about a group of juveniles who may have been drinking and were getting out in front of the house, the lawsuit states.
Three officers came to the house and ordered the people to disperse, and Sorrentino and Rolnick’s son, Austin Rolnick, came out to the front fence around his house to talk with the police, according to the suit. An argument followed, with officers using profanity and telling Austin Rolnick to come out to the sidewalk, the suit states.
Sorrentino came out of the house, told her son to go inside and followed him in, according to the suit, which states that police then went to the house, demanded to enter, and finally pushed the door open. Sorrentino was knocked to the floor and one of the officers fell on top of her, according to court papers. She suffered a torn ACL in her knee that required two surgeries, DiGioia said.
Austin Rolnick again confronted the officers, who arrested him and charged him with disorderly persons offenses for the confrontation outside, and two counts each of assaulting an officer and resisting arrest for the incident inside the house, said DiGioia.
In a news report about the incident, police said the arrests came after they tried to break up a 30-person fight among “a group of intoxicated juveniles” in front of the house and were confronted by Austin Rolnick, who was 20 at the time. They said Austin Rolnick had used profanity in talking with officers and jumped over the fence of the home’s front yard when officers asked him for identification.
When the two officers tried to restrain him, Rolnick attempted to strike officers with “his hands, feet and elbows,” Westfield Lt. Scott Rodger said in the report.
Austin Rolnick was also charged with possession of fake ID and possession of marijuana under 50 grams. He was held until later that morning and released on $10,000 bail.
Lawrence Rolnick was charged with disorderly person offenses in the incident, and reports of the charges frequently pop up in an internet search for his name, DiGioia said.
“These allegations have been plaguing him for years,” DiGioia said.
Police said Lawrence Rolnick was arrested for disorderly conduct and failure to disperse after he came outside and began screaming at the police, which further incited the crowd. However, DiGioia said Lawrence Rolnick was only charged when he went to police headquarters the next morning to get his son released from custody.
He said the charges later were heard in Clark municipal court, where officers admitted they entered the house without a warrant, and they were pursuing Austin Rolnick for disorderly person offenses, and thus had no legal authority to enter the house.
All the charges were dropped and last week, the township agreed to pay $1.15 million to settle lawsuits filed by the couple, and their son, Austin Rolnick, 26, and his friend, Ramon Martinez, 25, also of Westfield.
Martinez, who also lives in the house, was charged with two counts each of assaulting police, obstructing law enforcement and disorderly conduct, DiGioia said. In the 2009 news report, Rodger said Martinez attempted to strike police while Austin Rolnick was being restrained.
DeGioia said the settlement was reached one month before the case was to go to trial.
Sorrentino and Lawrence Rolnick will receive $1 million from the township, and Austin Rolnick will receive $100,000, according to DiGioia. He said Martinez will receive $55,000.
Calls to the Westfield Township administrator’s office seeking a comment were not returned.