Apparently, circumstances that could easily yield a state charge of aggravated assault are insufficient to win a federal civil rights police brutality prosecution in the Jordan Miles case.
That was the essence of U.S. Attorney David Hickton’s May 5 press release noting there would be no federal prosecution of Pittsburgh police officers involved:
“In order to prevail in court on a criminal civil rights charge, the government must prove that the law enforcement officer willfully deprived a person of a federally protected right. I have concluded that the evidence in this case will not support the heavy burden of a criminal charge against the officers.”
Black Leaders called the decision an outrage and have since called on Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala to bring state criminal charges against officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte, and David Sisak for allegedly beating Jordan Miles during an attempted arrest in Homewood on Jan. 10, 2010.
“Let’s make something perfectly clear, allegations of police misconduct and brutality were not proven baseless against these three officers,” said Black Political Empowerment Project Chair Tim Stevens. “If one reads this statement very carefully, it does not say a crime was not committed. It just says the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation couldn’t prove that a crime had been committed. “
Police Chief Nate Harper said the officers have been reinstated and are back on patrol. Fraternal Order of Police President Dan O’Hara said the officers are “vindicated.” Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said it’s time to move on.
Reached for comment at the NAACP Pittsburgh Unit’s annual Human Rights dinner, President M. Gayle Moss called the action a “modern-day lynching.”
“The NAACP is outraged. It’s like a modern-day lynching,” she said. “Three people at 200 and some pounds per person to beat up one young man that weighed less than 140 pounds… should be allowed to get away with that? We’re not going to stand still for it. If we have to go to the street, we will.”
Miles, a senior at CAPA High School at the time of the incident, was walking home from his grandmother’s house, Jan. 10, 2010, when the three undercover officers spotted him and, according to statements, called for him to stop, he fled, saying later they never identified themselves as police. During the arrest Miles was tasered, had a chuck of hair pulled out and a tree branch jammed through his lip. He was hospitalized twice.
The officers charged Miles with aggravated assault and resisting arrest. His attorney, Kerry Lewis got those charges dismissed and filed a civil lawsuit against the officers and the city. He called the Hickton’s decision “ridiculous.”
“The findings are quite simple and straight forward,” said Lewis. “He was beaten to a pulp.”
Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Pittsburgh Civilian Police Review Board, said she too was disappointed.
“It sucks. It was about winning, not about getting a hearing,” she said. “There are issues of possible false statement, evidence tampering, but we can’t look at anything until the district attorney says what he’s going to do. He deferred to the feds, now they’re done. It’s solely on his plate.”
Zappala spokesman Mike Manko told the New Pittsburgh Courier the office couldn’t yet make a statement.
“We expect to be in touch this week with the U.S. Attorneys Office to see if they will share any of their investigation with us,” he said. “And we also want to see the reports from the Police OMI office before saying anything else.”
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