$8M settlement on hold, new questions arise about renowned doctor hired to review high-profile case

PITTSBURGH — Chief Investigative Reporter Rick Earle has learned that the record settlement the City of Pittsburgh has agreed to pay the family of Jim Rogers has been put on hold as more questions surface about the agreement.

Rogers died after being hit with a taser by a Pittsburgh police officer who was investigating a report of a stolen bicycle in Bloomfield in October of 2021.

The city fired four officers and settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the family of Jim Rogers for a record $8 million.

>> A look at other major City of Pittsburgh settlements after historic $8M awarded to Jim Rogers family

11 Investigates broke the story last week that the city had hired a renowned forensic pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, at a cost of $10,000 to review the case for an upcoming arbitration hearing for the fired officer who tased Rogers.

That officer, Keith Edmonds, is attempting to get his job back. Two other officers who were also fired have already been reinstated with back pay. A third officer is expected to get his job back as well.

Edmonds appears to be the only officer whose future with the department is in jeopardy.

Omalu was the first to link traumatic brain disease to football players. He made that discovery and revelation while working in the Allegheny County Coroner’s office years ago. His discovery was the subject of the Hollywood movie, Concussion, starring Will Smith.

11 Investigates also reported last week that Omalu was previously hired by the attorney who filed the wrongful death lawsuit against the city and settled the case.

It’s unclear what Omalu did for the attorney, but he was listed as an expert witness and paid $5,000.

11 Investigates has now learned that Omalu, who was paid with city tax dollars, owes more than $240,000 in back taxes to Allegheny County, according to tax documents from the Allegheny County Treasurer’s office obtained by 11 Investigates.

According to the County Real Estate website, Omalu, through the limited partnership of Boge LP, purchased an old catholic school building in Clairton for $80,000.

According to tax records, no real estate taxes were ever paid on the building. The partnership also owes back school and city taxes. Allegheny County Treasurer John Weinstein said the total in back taxes is likely more than $1 million.

>> District Attorney weighs in on tasing death of Jim Rogers

City Council President Theresa Kail-Smith expressed concern about the tax issue and the city using the same expert that the attorney previously used against the city in the same case.

“It’s not only a concern that he owes tax dollars and we’re paying him tax dollars, it’s a concern that he testified against the city, and is now working with the city, so just a lot of conflicts we need to straighten our ourselves,” Kail-Smith said.

11 Investigates reached out to Omalu, but as of this writing hasn’t heard back.

The city said they were working on a statement about the tax issue.

Deputy Mayor Jake Pawlak defended the city’s handling of the case.

“I’m confident in the determinations the city has made, and are going to continue to represent as such in court,” said Deputy Mayor Jake Pawlak.

But Kail-Smith said in light of these new developments, she still has a lot of unanswered questions about the settlement and she requested the controller to put any payments on hold.

“I sent an email to Controller Lamb, asking him to withhold any payments related to the Jim Rogers case until council finishes investigating further,” said Kail Smith.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner ruled the death accidental and said Rogers died from a lack of oxygen to the brain.

A county grand jury heard testimony in the case and failed to return indictments against any of the officers.

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