D'Onofrio had been appointed as prosecutor in 2002. In 2007, she cooperated in an investigation against Judge Sasso by the FBI and the Attorney General's Office and shortly thereafter was subject to retaliatory action by Judge Sasso. The Judge sent her a letter telling her she was late for court and in a separate incident that same week, announced loudly to court personnel that D'Onofrio would be fired.
A couple months later, D'Onofrio reported to the township administrator, solicitor and the Somerset County presiding judge for municipal court that Judge Sasso was intoxicated during court. She later reported the same to the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct.
Several months later, the township ended the practice of providing police protection during D'Onofrio's conferences with defendants and when she walked to her car at the end of night court sessions. She complained to Warren officials about Judge Sasso's behavior, and shortly thereafter the township posted a notice that it was looking for a municipal prosecutor -- the first time such a notice had posted since D'Onofrio's 2002 appointment.
Although the Township argued that its job posting had nothing to do with D'Onofrio's complaints but rather was politically motivated, Town Council members admitted under oath that they were friends with Judge Sasso, that D'Onofrio was competent in her job, and D'Onofrio's replacement was equally qualified for the position.
After a three-week trial, a Morris County jury found that D'Onofrio proved retaliation under CEPA and awarded her compensatory damages of $551,903 and punitive damages in the amount of $827,854.
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