Three Pittsburgh police officers were the target of a civil lawsuit brought by Jordan Miles charging that they falsely arrested the CAPA High School student and used excessive force during the incident.
The jury found for Miles on the charge of false arrest and for the officers on excessive force allegations. They awarded Miles compensatory damages of $101,016.75 and punitive damages of $6,000 from each of the three officers. Miles called the verdict a victory for him.
“I just want to know that these police officers has committed a crime on the night of January 12, 2010, and that’s what this court brought out,” Miles said. “I’m very satisfied that these jurors were able to come to that conclusion and see that these police officers were wrong.”
In a previous civil trial the jury found for the officers on a charge of malicious prosecution but deadlocked on false arrest and excessive force charges.
The jury of four white men and four white women reached their verdict after only one full day of deliberations. Monday was to be their second day, but they reached the verdict shortly after lunchtime.
The suit stems from an incident that occurred in 2010 when then-18-year-old Miles was walking from his mother’s house to his grandmother’s house. He said he was walking in the middle of the street when a car approached him and three white men jumped out demanding his guns, drugs and money. The officers were in plain clothes and were in an unmarked car. Miles’ version of the story is that the men tackled him to the ground and beat him, never identifying themselves as police officers. He said they kicked, punched and hit him with a flashlight, even after he was handcuffed. He was left bruised, swollen and missing chunks of his hair after the incident.
The officers’ version of the story is completely different. They said Miles was hovering between houses and looked suspicious. They said they identified themselves as police officers, and that Miles tried to flee, but fell on some ice. When he continued to try and run, the officers said they tackled him through some bushes (which they said tore out his hair) and he landed on some rocks. That, they said, is how Miles sustained the bulk of his injuries.
Attorneys for the police officers say they are disappointed by the verdict and added they believe it doesn’t make any sense.
“There’s no logic behind it whatsoever, it makes no sense, it’s an inconsistent verdict,” said Robert Leight, attorney for Richard Ewing.
The attorneys for the officers said they consider the partial verdict a win for the defense because of what they called the small size of the monetary award. The money awarded will not be paid by the officers, but by the City of Pittsburgh because of insurance.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto responded to the verdict by looking both to the past and the future.
“Events one night in Homewood four years ago have echoed through our city, our neighborhoods and our police force ever since," he said. "It has changed at least four lives forever, but it hurt us all in some way. Our community must start healing, and must start rebuilding the trust we must have for safe communities and a better police force. I am ready to start that now.”
But Miles’ Attorney Joel Sansone said the saga should not be over. He called on the city and the United States Attorney to re-open the investigation into this case.
“We have brought to light in that courtroom facts that should cause the authorities to look into whether or not these individuals should be allowed to carry a gun and protect our citizens,” Sansone said.
He said the judge ruled inadmissible in this case evidence that these officers had acted the same way in the past and evidence that the officers had been disciplined for making false statements in reports. He said that and more should be cause for investigation.
Attorneys for the officers disagreed, Leight called the request “ridiculous.”
“For criminal prosecution the standard’s much higher, beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, which we just went through, the preponderance of the evidence is a much lower standard and in fact the jury couldn’t even find these officers used excessive force using the lower standard, so clearly there is no room or justification for criminal prosecution.”
Attorney for Michael Saldutte, Bryan Campbell, agreed.
“There wasn’t anything developed during this trial that hadn’t been developed before,” Campbell said. “The FBI investigated it, the matter went before a grand jury, the grand jury chose not to bring any charges. The irony is, this even supports the fact because if the grand jury was going to do anything it would have been because the officers used excessive force.”
All three officers continue to work, Saldutte and David Sisak are still with the Pittsburgh Police and Ewing is now with the McCandless Police Department.
For Miles, he said he will try to put this behind him and move forward.
“It’s still very difficult, but I can try my best because now I know that we tried our hardest to get the right decisions,” Miles said. “We may not agree with everything, but it’s good enough. So I can try and put this behind myself and enroll back in school and start doing the things that I love to do.”