In November, the town of Wayne Hills, New Jersey, found itself embroiled in a massive football controversy, when nine Wayne (N.J.) Hills High students were charged with violently attacking a teenager from a rival school but were still allowed to compete for the school's football team during its run toward a state title.
After massive media exposure both here on Prep Rally and elsewhere, the decision to let those nine players continue competing was revoked, with all nine forced to sit out the school's state title game against Old Tappan (N.J.) High, a matchup which Wayne Hills won regardless of missing players.
Now, one of those nine players suspended for that title game has filed an eye-watering $15 million civic lawsuit after he was cleared of the assault charges that were levied against him.
As reported by the Bergen Record, former Wayne Hills two-way standout Troy Zaffino filed a federal lawsuit that seeks to gain financial restitution for what he considers a false arrest. Zaffino, who starred at both wide receiver and defensive back for the school in both his junior and senior seasons, has consistently claimed that he was not at the party that led to the brutal beating of a Wayne (N.J.) Valley High student, the crime for which his eight teammates were arrested.
More specifically, the suit Zaffino filed claims that Wayne police admitted that they knew Zaffino wasn't at the party or the site of the crime on the night of the incident, but that "he was instructed to arrest plaintiff anyway."
That arrest reportedly came despite numerous eye witnesses coming forward to say that Zaffino wasn't there, or even involved in the incident in any way. According to the federal suit, the police and town officials resolutely refused to acknowledge any of those claims.
The charges against Zaffino were dropped by prosecutors in early 2012 because of the overwhelming lack of any proof he had taken part in any part of the beating. While that may have been a relief, it didn't sate Zaffino or his family's anger at how the teen was treated, leading to the lawsuit against a variety of Wayne institutions.
Make no mistake, if you're a significant school or civic official in Wayne, there is a good chance you're a defendant in Zaffino's lawsuit. The recent Wayne Hills graduate is suing the Township of Wayne, the Wayne Police Department, the Wayne Board of Education (and all of its trustees and officials), Wayne Mayor Christopher Vergano, Wayne Police Chief John Reardon, Wayne Police Captain James Clark and Wayne Interim Superintendent Michael Roth. Just for good measure, Zaffino's suit lists still unidentified police officers as defendants as well.
Whether Zaffino's suit is successful in recouping the funds he spent defending himself remains to be seen. Clearly, he appears to have suffered a pretty significant miscarriage of justice, if what the suit claims is proven to be true.
In the meantime, the lawsuit serves as a painful reminder of a disappointing incident from Wayne's recent past, one which the school's vaunted football program and the town in general may have felt was finally behind it.