An Atlantic City police officer, currently suspended from the force while awaiting federal trial on excessive force charges, was arrested over the weekend.

Atlantic City Police Officer Sterling Wheaten, 35, was arrested early Saturday morning by police in Margate on charges unrelated to the federal prosecution, according to a report from NJ.com

Margate Chief of Police Matthew Hankinson did not respond to phone calls seeking further information on the arrest.

Linda Gilmore, spokesperson for Atlantic County, said Wheaton was processed and released the same day as his arrest.

It was unclear what Wheaten was arrested on. A spokesman for the Atlantic City Police Department said "we will not have a comment at this time as we review the incident."

Wheaten is currently awaiting trial from an October 2018 indictment stemming from federal charges from a violent 2013 arrest in which he allegedly unleashed his K-9 on a Linwood man and justified the excessive force by writing up false reports. An excessive force lawsuit filed by the victim, David Connor Castellani, against the city was settled for $3 million in September 2017.

At the same time he is suing Atlantic City over not being paid his yearly salary while on suspension from the police department. 

According to a lawsuit filed April 4 in Atlantic County Superior Court, Wheaten was initially suspended without pay following his Oct. 10, 2018 federal indictment, pleading not guilty and requesting a suspension hearing.

A suspension hearing was held on Oct. 26, 2018. The lawsuit alleges Police Chief Henry White gave an oral decision to have Wheaten remain suspended but with pay, however the city has refused to respond with a written decision reinstating Wheaten's salary.

An amended complaint filed by Wheaten's lawyer, Louis M. Barbone, from the Atlantic City law firm Jacobs and Barbone, provides copies of requests sent to the Atlantic City Police Department, the office of the City Solicitor and the law office of Blaney and Karavan — the city's representation in the case — for response on the lifted pay suspension.

A motion to dismiss the lawsuit was filed by the city's attorneys in May was met with opposition to the motion filed by Barbone.

Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez heard arguments in the case and denied the dismissal on July 2.

Frank Guaracini, the attorney representing the city, said in a June 20 reply briefing that Wheaten's argument should be rejected because the chief of police is not the final decision maker in the disciplinary process. As of 2016, Atlantic City's governance has been placed under state monitoring, with functions and powers transferred to the Department of Community Affairs.

On Aug. 27, a second motion to dismiss the lawsuit was filed, with Judge Mendez scheduling a telephone case management conference on Sept. 23. Louis Barbone, Wheaten's attorney, requested an alternate date due to a scheduled surgery. 

Court documents available online show no date has been set for the pending case management conference. 

Wheaten was sworn in as an Atlantic City Police Officer on August 30, 2007 and graduated from the Atlantic County K-9 Academy on May 3, 2013. 

Contact: 609-272-7286

LCarroll@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPress_LC

Staff Writer

Joined the Press in November 2016. Graduate of Quinnipiac University. Previously worked as a freelance reporter in suburban Philadelphia and news/talk radio producer.

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