In a case steeped in political controversy, former Hunterdon County Assistant Prosecutor Bennett Barlyn, represented by Partner Bob Lytle of Szaferman, Lakind, Blumstein & Blader, has agreed to a $1.5 million settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit that he brought against the State of New Jersey, former State Attorney General Paula Dow, former Director of the Division of Criminal Justice Stephen Taylor and former Acting Hunterdon County Prosecutor Dermot O’Grady, which alleged that our client was wrongfully terminated in violation of his civil rights.
Mr. Barlyn served as an assistant prosecutor from 2007 until August of 2010, at which time he was fired in retaliation for complaining about what he alleged to be the corrupt dismissal of three indictments by the State Attorney General’s Office. The indictments had originally been brought by the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office in 2010 against the then Hunterdon County Sheriff, her Undersheriff and a Sheriff’s Investigator, all of whom were active in Republican politics and had significant ties to the Christie Administration. The 43 count indictments included, among other crimes, charges of official misconduct and the creation of false law enforcement identifications. One of the recipients of the false law enforcement identifications was the Chief Executive Officer of a biotechnology company who was a large contributor to the Republican party.
All three indictments were unsealed in May of 2010. At that same time, and on “orders from above”, Attorney General Dow pressured Patrick Barnes into resigning from his position as Hunterdon County Prosecutor, appointed then Deputy Attorney General Dermot O’Grady as Acting Hunterdon County Prosecutor, and ordered that the prosecution of the Sheriffs’ indictments be taken over by attorneys and investigators from her office in the Division of Criminal Justice. Three months later, in August of 2010, the Attorney General’s Office unilaterally moved to dismiss all of the charges. Mr. Barlyn publicly challenged the factual basis on which the Attorney General’s Office sought to have the charges dismissed, specifically complaining that the decision was politically motivated. He was suspended the following day and terminated three weeks later by way of a letter sent to him by Director Taylor, who was acting under the direction of Attorney General Dow. Both Dow and Taylor have since been appointed Superior Court Judges by Governor Chris Christie.
Prior to reaching the settlement, the parties engaged in a protracted legal battle to have the secret grand jury testimony related to the indictments unsealed. Bob Lytle and his client believed that the grand jury record contained highly relevant evidence which would simultaneously demonstrate that all 43 charges were in fact valid and refute the reasons given by the Attorney General for dismissing the indictments, thereby reinforcing Mr. Barlyn’s claim that he was wrongfully terminated for blowing the whistle on what he believed to be corrupt conduct by government officials. Ultimately, the court granted Barlyn and Lytle access to the secret grand jury record and the settlement followed.
Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants deny any wrongdoing.