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Jury: White officers falsely arrested black teen

Art Student Beaten

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Three white officers accused in a federal civil rights lawsuit of beating a black art student falsely arrested him but didn't use excessive force, a jury found Monday, awarding him $119,000 in damages.

The all-white jury of four men and four women reached a split verdict in 22-year-old Jordan Miles' lawsuit against officers David Sisak, Michael Saldutte and Richard Ewing. They found the officers liable for falsely arresting Miles but found them not liable for using excessive force to beat him.

The jurors awarded Miles $101,000 in compensatory damages and $6,000 from each officer for punitive damages for acting "maliciously and wantonly."

Miles' attorney, Joel Sansone, said he was gratified but confused by the verdict because he didn't understand how the jurors came to a decision on the damages or concluded that the officers were wrong to arrest Jordan but not wrong to beat him. In closing arguments, Sansone didn't ask for a specific amount in damages but hinted to the jury that millions of dollars may be appropriate.

"The only thing he wanted to hear was that these officers did the wrong thing," Sansone said after the verdict.

Miles had claimed the officers confronted him in January 2010 while he was walking to his grandmother's house to spend the night. He says they assumed he was a drug dealer because of his race and dreadlocks and beat him. At the time, he was an 18-year-old senior at Pittsburgh's performing arts high school and had no history of police trouble.

The officers say they got rough with Miles because he fought with them while they mistakenly thought he had a gun.

The verdict stemmed from a retrial granted after another jury two years ago rejected Miles' civil rights claims that police maliciously prosecuted him for assault, resisting arrest and other crimes when he ran from and fought with police on Jan. 12, 2010. The criminal charges were dismissed weeks after Miles' arrest by a city magistrate who said he didn't believe the police version of events.

But the first federal court jury in August 2012 couldn't decide whether Miles had been wrongfully arrested or whether police used excessive force in the process, leading to a retrial on those civil rights claims.

Miles contends he was talking on his cellphone to his girlfriend while walking a block to his grandmother's house, where he routinely spent the night, when the plainclothes officers rolled up in an unmarked car asking for money, drugs and a gun without identifying themselves. His lawyers contend that practice - which police denied using - is commonly known as a "jump out" and used to put suspected drug dealers on the defensive.

The officers maintain they flashed their badges and yelled "Police!" and stopped Miles only because he appeared to be lurking near a neighbor's home. They claim Miles panicked and ran after being asked why he was "sneaking around" - and the confrontation escalated when Miles purportedly elbowed Saldutte in the head, then kicked Sisak in the knee, before officers mistook a "bulge" in Miles' coat pocket for a gun.

The officers contend they discovered the bulge was from a bottle of Mountain Dew. Miles denies carrying the bottle; officers say they later threw it away.

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Fred April 01 2014 at 3:38 PM

yeah right......thought that bulge was a weapon, whooped his young butt and threw it way? That bottle of Mt. Dew was his private property if it even existed. It sounds to me like a BS story. You just getting off beating up kids and being the bullies on the block, but got called on your illegal and violent actions. You should be locked up for a week or so too. And you wonder why you're losing relations with the public/citizens of the community. Great job officers.

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ernielondonderry April 01 2014 at 9:02 AM

what was the racial composition of the first jury ?

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1 reply
Sam Rob ernielondonderry April 01 2014 at 9:08 AM

All white!!!

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Marrieah April 01 2014 at 9:10 AM

Often times people with power and authority don't know how to use it. I think in some subliminal way they envision the actions of the characters (think kings and queens) they see on TV and in the movies and this is especially true of cops. We as people have been indoctrinated to believe that cops are there to protect us and never do wrong. We fail to remember that they are flawed humans collecting a pay check at our expense.
As for the jury, I have come to believe that an all white jury loath to blame one of their own for their actions even though they know in their heart of the hearts that that person was wrong. But the purpose of a jury is sift thru the rights from the wrongs and rule on it. If they can't do so, they should recuse themselves from being a jurist.

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tyler931 April 01 2014 at 9:14 AM

"WOW" but not surprizing.

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mvnup April 01 2014 at 8:40 AM

I’ve seen documentaries on gang and gang violence were the gang members interviewed on the streets say there are some streets that are so bad the police are afraid to drive down those streets. If that is true would that not be considered terrorism and then shouldn’t the military come in to make those areas safe for citizens to live again?

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llhuberarchitect April 01 2014 at 7:45 AM

Gee white hits black it is civil rights violated.
Black murders white it is justifiable because some white over 100 years ago owned a slave.

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1 reply
nam2205 llhuberarchitect April 01 2014 at 7:56 AM

I think that you finaley got it right.

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doggamut April 01 2014 at 7:47 AM

Both black and white view the other with suspicion. That, by itself, creates problems. But a greater problem is the police culture of "us vs them." If you aren't one of the police then you're bad. Police make claims of pursuing noble ideals but they're about the same as a neighborhood mobster legally allowed to rough up or even kill people in their turf. As far as this judgment goes ... the jury was split. Most knew the police had been bad but at least someone on the jury still believed in the fairy tale of good police. Racism ... maybe. Bad cops ... of clearly.

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Evening Greg !!! April 01 2014 at 2:50 AM

Being a retired police officer with 30 years in law enforcement I don't take sides on the issue at hand but I am perplexed as to how the court can say that the officers didn' use excessive force in making the arrest but awarded the man $ 6,000 per officer for them " acting maliciously and wantonly " WTF ??? Glad I'm in Kansas with Dorothy instead of Pennsylvania.

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MARTY April 01 2014 at 4:05 AM

Today the cops are as much of a criminal as those they are supposed to be protecting us from a lot of the time. You always see these stories of them being in the wrong and I recently saw several judges indicted in Illinois for doing cocaine and selling it to others. It looks like those that are supposed to serve and protect have a self serving purpose.

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page114 April 01 2014 at 2:56 AM

Status Quo!

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