Former Hoboken High School and Penn State University quarterback Rashard Casey has settled his lawsuit with the Hoboken Police Department, reportedly receiving at least $100,000 in the June deal that was arranged out of court by Hoboken town attorneys and Dennis McAlevy, Casey's attorney.
While McAlevy refused to divulge the amount of the settlement, citing confidentiality laws, two people close to Casey said the figure was "definitely six figures" and could have reached as high as $300,000.
The settlement comes after Casey was charged and chastised in public for his alleged involvement in a fight involving an off-duty Hoboken police officer outside a Hoboken bar three years ago.
Both Casey and Hoboken Police Chief Carmen LaBruno did not return numerous phone calls by press time Friday morning.
The settlement brings forth a closure to a highly controversial and highly publicized case that haunted Casey for more than three years.
On May 14, 2000, Casey, who was slated to enter his senior year at Penn State later that year, and a former high school teammate Desmond Miller were arrested and charged with aggravated assault against off-duty Hoboken police officer Patrick Fitzsimmons outside a First Street bar.
The arrest caused shockwaves through the sports world, especially when it was reported that a racial dispute was the reason that Casey and Miller attacked Fitzsimmons. Casey, who was slated to be Penn State's starting quarterback in the fall of 2000 after earning the Most Valuable Player award in the Alamo Bowl the previous season, was immediately the focus of national criticism for his off-the-field behavior.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno took a stand and decided not to inflict any type of punishment upon Casey for his actions in the altercation, saying the arrest didn't necessarily mean a conviction. Paterno was highly criticized for not suspending Casey for being arrested.
However, six months later, a Hudson County grand jury failed to return an indictment against Casey, but returned an assault charge against Miller.
Miller pleaded guilty to the charge in February 2001 and was sentenced to five years probation with conditions including anger management counseling, community service and restitution to Fitzsimmons.
But all charges against Casey were dropped and he was exonerated for any involvement.
"There's a little strange quirk in this case, leading us all to believe something happened here," Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio told the Associated Press. "But the grand jury got a full and complete presentation and they decided to no-bill Rashard Casey in this case."
In November of 2000, a month after the charges were dropped, Casey sued the Hoboken Police Department for malicious prosecution, violation of his civil rights and slanderous statements that alleged Casey and Miller attacked the officer because he was escorting a black woman. Casey and Miller are African-Americans. Fitzsimmons is white.
Later that month, Fitzsimmons filed suit against Casey and Miller, and Casey came back with another suit against Fitzsimmons. But those suits were dismissed in 2002.
Ends a chapter
McAlevy said that the settlement with the Hoboken Police Department puts an end to the sad chapter that certainly affected the life of Casey, now 26 years old and working for the Newark Housing Authority.
"Everything is over and it's a fair settlement," McAlevy said. "He sued the city for a violation of his civil rights and you can draw your own conclusion by the settlement. We were ready to go to trial with the case, but the settlement was ironed out and everyone agreed to it. Rashard is getting on with his life. It's a shame it ever happened in the first place. We maintained from day one that Rashard was never guilty of anything. The Prosecutor's Office agreed. The grand jury agreed. Obviously, now, the city of Hoboken realizes that as well."
McAlevy maintains that the incident definitely hurt Casey's chances of becoming a professional football player. He did not enjoy a successful senior year at Penn State and was not drafted by a National Football League team. He did have offers to try out for some teams, like the Detroit Lions and the New York Jets, as a free agent, but never signed a contract. Casey also played one year of arena football in Virginia before returning home to Hoboken.
"The crime of it all is that he was going into his senior year as the starting quarterback for a perennial powerhouse," McAlevy said. "But throughout the country, he's known as the black quarterback who assaulted the white cop. He never had a chance to exhibit the skills he had already developed. It's an amazing shame."
During his high school days, Casey was presented with the Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Year in 1995-96 and was also the Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year that year. He led Hoboken High School to two consecutive state championships and earned All-State accolades in football in 1994 and 1995.
"I figured that if this incident doesn't take place, Rashard Casey is probably playing for Bill Parcells," McAlevy said. "But that's all water under the bridge now. I can't think of a nicer human being than Rashard Casey and I consider him to be like my son. I just hope this means it's all over."