State Sen. Nicholas Scutari scored a big win today in defamation lawsuit he filed against Linden Mayor Derek Armstead after a Superior Court Judge denied a bid to dismiss two of three counts.
“Today was a major victory in Senator Scutari’s journey to clear his name and right the wrongs we believe were levied upon him by Derek Armstead and the city of Linden,” said Gregory Noble, Scutari’s attorney. “We look forward to fully developing the facts that clearly prove the allegations in our complaint that Senator Scutari’s termination was purely motivated by politics and nothing more, and that Armstead himself continually repeated non-factual information to slander and libel Senator Scutari’s good name”.
Judge Alan Lesnewich allowed Scutari’s legal action against Armstead to proceed. He dismissed an allegation of malicious prosecution but ruled that charges of defamation and political activity retaliation may continue.
Scutari, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Union County Democratic Chairman, accused Armstead of making false statements regarding his tenure as the Linden municipal prosecutor.
“I support the decision to investigate Nick Scutari for his absenteeism. Taxpayers will no longer tolerate waste, fraud, and abuse in City Government,” Armstead said, according to court records.
Armstead fired Scutari in January 2019 and replaced him with Deirdre Mason, a Scotch Plains attorney.
He said Armstead withheld a 2005 personnel policy memorandum that allowed the municipal prosecutor to miss a certain number of court sessions without penalty – and then requires that the prosecutor pay for replacements when he was not available to be in court.
Scutari had personally paid the cost substitute – a common practice in New Jersey – when he was unavailable to be in court himself.
Armstead did not immediately respond to a 11:05 AM text message seeking comment. If he does respond, this story will be updated.