Miles’ attorneys, Pittsburgh police spar over legal fees

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PITTSBURGH (AP) – Lawyers for the city and a Black former performing arts student who successfully sued three officers for wrongful arrest are sparring over legal expenses.

Attorneys for the officers contend Jordan Miles owes the city more than $100,000 because the jury awarded Miles less than the $180,000 the city offered him to settle the lawsuit before trial back in 2011.

But Miles’ attorneys contend the $119,000 March verdict on the wrongful arrest charge means they’re now also entitled to collect $1.7 million in legal fees from the city.

The eight-member federal jury rejected Miles’ claims that he was wrongfully beaten during his arrest in January 2010, when officers claim they thought he was a prowler on a frigid night in a high-crime neighborhood. Miles, who was then 18, contends he was merely walking to his grandmother’s that night and was set upon because he’s black.

City Officers David Sisak and Michael Saldutte as well as Richard Ewing, who has since moved to a suburban police department, contend they stopped Miles because he was lurking suspiciously near a house. They acknowledged tackling, punching and even kneeing Miles, but only because they initially believed a hard “bulge” in his coat pocket was a gun.

The officers contend the hard object turned out to be a soda pop bottle. Miles denies having the bottle and argued that was an after-the-fact ruse the officers concocted to explain their actions.

The city contends it paid Miles $75,000 toward his attorneys’ fees as part of a partial settlement, in which Miles dropped his claims against the city. The city still agreed to take responsibility for any damages Miles won from the officers.

The city contends the earlier settlement offer of $180,000 was meant to avoid drawn-out litigation. Because Miles won less than what the city offered, the city’s attorneys contend Miles should reimburse the city more than $105,000 it spent since the settlement was rejected.

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