HUDSON COUNTY -- In 2005, after her high school graduation ceremony, 18-year-old Rebeka Verea of West New York was the passenger in a car driven by her male friend. The car swerved to avoid hitting a truck that had suddenly cut into his lane near West Side Avenue and 74th Street in North Bergen, and Verea was killed. Her friend was charged with vehicular homicide.
Later, the friend, Alexis Torres, was acquitted of all charges against him but charged with failure to wear a seat belt.
Torres sued the North Bergen Police Sgt. Robert Farley, the township of North Bergen, State Attorney General Pter Harvey, and the state attorney general's office for false imprisonment and for "malicious prosecution," saying Harvey made statements at public gatherings alleging or suggesting that he was drunk or had been driving at a high rate of speed, both of which were not proven to be true.
Since the accident, Verea's parents, Dr. Jorge Verea and Lourdes Verea, have started a foundation to promote safer driving.
Torres' suit against the government and the sergeant was dismissed last week.
There were several reasons given for the dismissal, including a failure to prove malice, a statute of limitations in one count, and "sovereign immunity" on the part of law enforcement.
The judge wrote that "Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim against the State Defendants is premised upon Harvey's statements to the public regarding Plaintiff. According to the complaint, on at least three occasions prior to Plaintiff's indictment, Harvey referred to Plaintiff in public statements as racing, intoxicated, and 'drinking and speeding,' and noting that he will 'go to jail.' Plaintiff does not allege that Harvey actually prosecuted him, only that these statements 'had the clear effect of causing and creating the malicious prosecution.'"