PITTSBURGH – A federal court jury found Wednesday that three white Pittsburgh police officers did not maliciously prosecute a young black man who was arrested for prowling and fighting with police more than two years ago, and was deadlocked on charges that the officers used excessive force and falsely arrested him.
They declined to award any damages and said they were hopelessly deadlocked.
The decision came after five days of deliberations on claims by Jordan Miles that he was stopped without cause -- and likely because he was a young black man walking in his high-crime neighborhood -- then wrongly arrested and beaten before and after he was handcuffed.
The officers had always maintained they did nothing wrong and that they stopped Miles only because he appeared to be lurking near a neighbor's home and had a bulge in his coat pocket which they took for a gun before finding only a soda bottle. Miles has denied having even the bottle and said he was merely walking about a block to his grandmother's house, where he routinely spent the night.
Miles was an 18-year-old senior at Pittsburgh's performing arts high school with no criminal record when he was arrested Jan. 12, 2010, by officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak. He was charged with assaulting police, loitering and prowling at night, resisting arrest and escape.
Miles, now 20, said police used excessive force -- choking him and hitting him in the head with a hard object after he was handcuffed -- while wrongfully arresting and maliciously prosecuting him. A district justice who doubted police claims dismissed charges against him two months later. That ruling came after a woman who lived in the house near where police contend they saw Miles, said she never told police she didn't know who he was and was never asked, as officers claimed in a criminal complaint, whether he had permission to be there.
That woman, Monica Wooding, also testified at Miles' civil rights lawsuit and denied seeing Saldutte holding a flashlight to Miles' face so she could identify him from her upstairs bedroom window. Wooding went even further, saying the police wagon in which Miles was taken from the scene was pulling away by the time she spoke to police.
The evidence in the case was marked by several other stark differences between Miles' version of events and the police claims, including the soda bottle, which police contend they threw away because it wasn't evidence of any of the charges filed against Miles.