With a city council agreement to pay $75,000 dollars to Jordan Miles for legal fees, the city of Pittsburgh insured the city’s “supervisory personnel” were released from the Federal civil lawsuit arising from his alleged beating at the hands of three city police officers during an arrest two years ago.
The trial will now focus primarily on the conduct of officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak when they encountered Miles in Homewood on the night of Jan. 12, 2010. However, Miles’ Attorney Kerry Lewis said in addition to the claims of excessive force, the case will also include allegations that the officers filed a false affidavit supporting the arrest prior to a preliminary hearing.
The civil trial before U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster is scheduled to begin July 15. On May 5, 2011, U.S. Attorney David Hickton announced he would not bring criminal civil rights charges against the officers because he did not have enough evidence to win the case. That left any criminal prosecution up to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala’s office. So far, he has declined to file charges. Spokesman Mike Manko told the New Pittsburgh Courier the matter is still under review.
Lewis said the evidence will show his client was “beaten to a pulp” by the officers and that they later fabricated evidence against him.
“The Miles family wants a jury, wants this tried and wants people to hear the facts and then decide what happened here,” he said when the city agreed to the partial settlement last month. “That’s what’s important to them.”
Miles, then a star viola player at Pittsburgh’s Creative and Performing Arts High School, who had planned to study criminal justice at Penn State after graduation, was arrested Jan. 12 in Homewood by the three plainclothes officers.
In their report, Saldutte, Ewing and Sisak claimed Miles resisted arrest after they found him prowling around a house on Tioga Street. Miles said he ran from them because they never identified themselves as police officers
During the arrest Miles was allegedly Tasered, had a chunk of hair pulled out and a tree branch jammed through his lip. He was hospitalized twice.
He was charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest, though he weighed 140 pounds and the three officers all near or over 200 pounds. At his March 4 preliminary hearing District Justice Oscar Petite threw out the officers’ affidavit as possibly perjured.
According to the affidavit the officers said they saw something heavy in his coat pocket, but it later turned out to be a bottle of Mountain Dew. If that is true, where is it? Lewis asked. No such bottle was turned in as evidence.
The police affidavit also claimed neighbor and eyewitness Monica Wooding, said she didn’t know Miles. When called to testify, however, she said that was a lie, telling Petite she not only knew him but her son played basketball with him.
Despite the $75,000 payment, Lewis said the city is still on the hook for any damages awarded.
“A verdict against the officers on any of the three main charges; excessive force, falsifying evidence, and having no probable cause for the arrest and the city would have to pay compensatory and punitive damages,” said Lewis. “I’m anticipating the trial lasting anywhere from one to two weeks. We have a lot of witnesses.”
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