A Morris County jury has awarded $1.38 million to former Warren Township prosecutor Michelle D’Onofrio, who was fired in 2007 after accusing a local judge of misconduct. D’Onofrio sued when she was fired two weeks after filing a state ethics complaint alleging that municipal Judge Richard Sasso presided in court while drunk, bullied attorneys and gave harsher sentences to minority and female defendants.
According to court papers, D’Onofrio began having problems on the job when her bosses and Sasso learned she had spoken to the FBI and state Attorney General’s office.
Sasso retired from the bench in January 2008, attributing his behavior to medication he had been taking to treat back pain.
The jury awarded D’Onofrio $551,903 to cover her lost future pay and pension benefits, plus $827,855 in punitive damages. The jury awarded $1.2 million in attorney’s fees. Warren Township township has vowed to appeal the decision.