Three white Pittsburgh police officers were convicted of falsely arresting a black student at a performing arts high school, although they escaped charges of using excessive force to detain the youth, the Associated Press reports.
Jordan Miles, now 22, was awarded about $119,000 in damages from an all-white jury of four men and four women. In addition to just over $100,000 in compensatory damages, the jury awarded Miles $6,000 from each officer involved for acting “maliciously and wantonly,” the newswire notes.
In January 2010, Miles claims he was walking and talking on his cellphone, headed for his grandmother’s house, when the plainclothes officers—David Sisak, Michael Saldutte and Richard Ewing—rushed him in an unmarked car demanding money, drugs and gun without identifying themselves as police. An common tactic apparently called the “jump-out,” it’s intended to catch dealers off guard.
The officers said they did show their badges and identified themselves, and that they stopped the young man because he appeared to be lurking at a nearby home. They argued that Miles started to run, which culminated in an altercation. Miles started kicking and elbowing, they said, so—after seeing a “bulge” in his pocket—they responded in kind, admittedly kneeing and punching him to subdue him. It was only afterward that they realized it was a bottle of soda.
According to the AP, a city magistrate doubted the credibility of the police officers’ version of the events and dismissed the charges they had filed against the young man, which included prowling, assault and resisting arrest.
“Clearly this is a compromise verdict,” Sisak’s attorney, James Wymard, told the AP. “All along, the excessive force is what we were worried about.”
Miles’ lawyer wants the case to be reconsidered and hopes to prosecute the officers criminally, but it was not clear whether that would happen.
The award is hardly a windfall for the young man, who could be left only with a net award of about $3,000 after money is deducted for city insurance (more than $40,000) and $75,000 that the city paid to cover the claims against the government. Miles could also be left having to pay some of the officers’ lawyers’ fees because the lawsuit wasn’t a complete victory on his part.
“Eventually, Miles may well be writing the city of Pittsburgh a check in this case,” Wymard said.
Read more at the Associated Press.