A Federal jury decided that three white Pittsburgh officers wrongfully arrested Jordan Miles in January 2010 but didn’t use excessive force. It awarded Miles a little over $119K – $101,016.75 in compensatory damages plus $6,000 in punitive damages against each officer – of the $2M he was seeking.
Miles, 22, testified that he was talking on his cellphone while walking down the street from his mother’s house to his grandmother’s house when a car swerved towards him, and three men jumped out demanding money, drugs, and a gun. Miles believed he was about to be robbed, so he turned, ran, and slipped. Miles’ attorney, Joel Sansone, argued the “jump out” is designed to catch suspected drug dealers off-guard.
The three police officers – Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte, and David Sisak – denied using this tactic.
The officers contended they were driving down the street when they spotted Miles lurking around a house. They testified they identified themselves as officers, and Miles took off when officers asked him why he was sneaking around that house.
Ewing and Saldutte admitted to punching and kneeing Miles to subdue him, claiming the force was justified because Saldutte felt a hard object, which he believed to be a gun, near Miles’ waist during the struggle.
During a search of Miles after his arrest, Saldutte testified he found a Mountain Dew Bottle in Miles’ pocket. But the officers claimed they discarded the bottle because it wasn’t evidence of the prowling, assault, and resisting arrest charges they filed against Miles.
Miles stated he didn’t have a bottle, and he doesn’t drink Mountain Dew. A city magistrate later dismissed those charges because he didn’t find the police version credible.
Sansone says he doesn’t understand how the jurors decided the damages or concluded the police were wrong to arrest Miles but right to beat him. Sansone wants the FBI and Justice Department to reconsider a decision not to criminally prosecute the officers.