by: Brian Bowling, TribLIVE Updated:
PITTSBURGH - A retired police officer called as an expert witness in a Homewood man's federal civil rights case testified that he couldn't offer an opinion about either side's credibility but then called the man's version of what happened a “fantasy.”
Joseph Stine, 70, a retired Philadelphia police officer and retired chief of New Britain, Bucks County, said that after reviewing the reports and depositions in the Jordan Miles case he agreed to testify on behalf of the three arresting officers.
“I believed that what the officers had done in this case was proper,” he said.
Miles, 22, claims that Pittsburgh police Officers Michael Saldutte and David Sisak and then-Officer Richard Ewing — now a McCandless police officer — didn't identify themselves when they confronted him, lacked probable cause and used excessive force when they arrested him Jan. 12, 2010, on Tioga Street.
The officers claim that Miles was acting suspiciously, fled when they questioned him and fought when they arrested him. They said he suffered most of his injuries when Sisak tackled him, sending them both through a hedge and onto rocky ground.
In summing up his understanding of the case, Stine provided a straightforward description of the officers' version of events.
“It was an investigatory stop that went bad because the person didn't cooperate,” he told the eight jurors hearing testimony.
Stine said that his opinion was based on the assumption that the officers' version of events was accurate.
Robert Giroux, one of Miles' attorneys, asked him to make the same assumption about Miles' version of events.
“How am I supposed to accept something I know isn't true?” he asked.
When he said Miles' version was a “fantasy,” U.S. District Judge David Cercone ordered the jury to disregard his statement.
Giroux pointed out that while the officers contend that Miles was lurking beside a house when they spotted him and wasn't talking on the phone when they confronted him, his cell phone record shows he was on a call with a friend up until three minutes before the officers called for a police van to transport him to a hospital and then jail.
Jamiah Anderson, the friend, testified that she heard Miles say, “No. Stop. Chill,” before the phone went dead.
Giroux said the officers reported finding the phone where Miles said he dropped it, but Stine said he didn't see that as corroboration of Miles' version of events.
“It's one possible explanation for how the phone got there,” he said.
Ewing testified Tuesday that he immediately identified himself to Miles as a Pittsburgh police officer and showed him his badge. Given four years to reflect on that night, he believes the officers didn't violate Miles' rights, he said.
“I believe that we all acted appropriately,” Ewing said. “There wasn't anything we could have done differently.”
The case gained notoriety when pictures circulated of Miles' badly swollen face after the arrest and the fact that he was an honors student at the Downtown Creative and Performing Arts High School.
Ewing was still on the stand being cross-examined when the 10th day of testimony started Wednesday.
Holding up a picture of his Miles' swollen face, Joel Sansone questioned Ewing's testimony about how quickly the three officers subdued his client.
“You did all that in three minutes?” he asked.
“He did that to himself, sir,” Ewing said.
The lawyers for the officers plan to wrap up their case Wednesday with the jury likely to hear closing arguments Thursday.
(Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)