PITTSBURGH - A federal jury on Monday decided three police officers wrongfully arrested a Homewood man four years ago, but didn't use excessive force.
The unanimous verdict is the latest development in the public controversy that has surrounded the arrest of Jordan Miles since pictures of his bruised and swollen face first surfaced shortly after his Jan. 12, 2010, arrest. The eight-member jury began deliberating on Friday after 10 days of testimony.
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The jury also awarded Miles $101,016.75 total in compensatory damages and $6,000 in punitive damages against each officer.
Lawyers for both sides had no immediate comment. The city settled with Miles for $75,000 before the start of a first civil trial in 2012, which ended with jurors deciding Miles was not maliciously prosecuted but jurors in that trial were hung on whether he was wrongfully arrested or if the officers used excessive force.
The city has agreed to cover any damages awarded to Miles on behalf of the officers.
Miles, 22, claimed that Pittsburgh police Officers Michael Saldutte and David Sisak and then-Officer Richard Ewing lacked probable cause, failed to identify themselves and used excessive force during his arrest.
The officers contend that Miles was acting suspiciously and ran when they tried to question him. They claim he suffered most of his injuries when Sisak tackled him, sending them both through a hedge and onto rocky ground.
Although the trial testimony focused on a multitude of conflicting details, the two most important were how the confrontation started and where a pop bottle came from.
Miles testified that he was walking in the street from his mother's house to his grandmother's house, talking on his cell phone with a friend, when a car came down the street and swerved toward him.
Three men got out of the car with one of them shouting, “Where's your gun, money, drugs?” Believing he was about to be robbed he turned, started running and slipped. One of the men jumped on top of him and all three started hitting and kicking him, Miles said.
The officers said they were driving the other way on Tioga Street when Saldutte and Ewing spotted Miles standing beside a house with his back to the street. They turned the car around and came back to investigate.
Ewing testified he rolled down his window, showed his badge and identified himself as a police officer. Saldutte testified he opened his door, stepped partway out to show his badge over the roof of the car and started questioning Miles about what he was doing.
While Miles initially responded to the officers' commands and questions, he took off when Saldutte asked him why he was “sneaking” around a house where he didn't live, the officers claim.
The pop bottle is mainly an issue for the excessive force claim.
Sisak and Ewing admit to punching and kneeing Miles in the face as he lay on the ground resisting their attempts to handcuff them. The officers claim the force was justified because Saldutte, during the struggle, felt a hard object near Miles' waist and believed it was a gun.
During a search of Miles after his arrest, Saldutte found and discarded a Mountain Dew bottle that was in Miles' coat pocket, the officer testified in court.
Miles testified that he didn't have a bottle and doesn't drink Mountain Dew. Sisak and Ewing testified that they saw Saldutte throw a bottle away, but didn't see where it came from. Miles' lawyers contend the bottle could have come from a garbage can that was knocked over during the struggle.
Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-325-4301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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