Maplewood Police and Fire

Suspended Maplewood Police Chief Faces Bias Suit in Pit Bull Incident

Maplewood Police Chief Robert Cimino is facing a civil lawsuit alleging racial bias related to an incident that occurred three years ago.

According to attorney Brooke Barnett, who is representing  Maplewood resident Daniel Exantus, a civil rights lawsuit has been filed against Police Chief Robert Cimino and the Township of Maplewood alleging racial bias. In a police report filed immediately after the incident, Cimino wrote that Exantus appeared to direct his pit bull dog to attack the chief while he was conducting an investigation.

In a letter sent to Village Green, Barnett asserts:

“The lawsuit relates to an incident which occurred on July 1, 2014, where police Chief Cimino and another officer under his supervision visited the home of Maplewood resident Daniel Exantus at 3 o’clock in the morning to interrogate him about a shooting in the area. There were no warrants and no reason for the officers to enter onto Mr. Exantus’ private property – Mr. Exantus was not a suspect in the shooting and was not a witness of the shooting. Chief Cimino was aware of these facts.

“We have reason to believe that while being improperly on the Exantus property, the Chief engaged in an unprovoked beating of Mr. Exantus’ family dog, Zoey, then left the scene, returned to police headquarters, and fabricated criminal charges against Mr. Exantus claiming that he used the dog as a deadly weapon.

“These charges resulted in Mr. Exantus being wrongfully incarcerated, losing his job as a home health aide, and losing the dog, which was taken from the Exantus home by authorities and euthanized.”

According to a report by NJ101.5, a jury found Exantus not guilty on all the charges. Barnett said that the bias lawsuit is moving forward after a judge denied the Maplewood Township’s efforts to have it dismissed.

NJ101.5 also filed for the police report in which Cimino says that he and then Det. Sgt. (now Acting Capt.) Albert Sally had reason to be at the home in order to investigate “an aggravated assault with a firearm at another location” in which Exantus’ brother had been injured. Cimino reported that when Exantus saw him and Sally exit the car, he saw Exantus “move his head towards the steps and then swing his right arm in my direction.” Cimino said pit bull started running towards them from the steps. As the dog tried to bite him, Cimino said Exantus “took no action to stop the dog’s multiple advances and attempts to bite me.”

“The actions of Exantus indicated to me that he directed the dog to attack me,” Cimino said in the report.

Exantus said that neither Cimino or Sally identified themselves to him as police officers; Cimino said that although he was in plain clothes his gold badge was clearly visible on his chest.

Read the full NJ101.5 report here: Suspended Maplewood police chief facing bias lawsuit over pit bull attack.

Conversely, Barnett contends that the incidents of July 5, 2016 — which have led to a vote of no confidence in Chief Cimino by the Maplewood Township Committee as well as his suspension and calls for his resignation — show a pattern of racial bias.

“We believed at the time we took the case, as we believe now, that Chief Cimino targeted Mr. Exantus because he was black,” wrote Barnett, “in an attempt to intimidate him and his family and ultimately drive them out of the Township of Maplewood.”

Village Green has reached out to Cimino and legal counsel for Maplewood Township for comment and will update this report should we receive any replies.

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