Witness: In loose handcuff, Jordan Miles had dangerous weapon

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It was Jordan Miles, not the three Pittsburgh officers who wielded a deadly weapon during a controversial 2010 arrest, a policing consultant testified at a civil trial today.

"Mr. Miles had a handcuff on his one wrist that he had pulled away from the police officers and that was in fact a deadly weapon in and of itself," said Joseph Stine, a consultant who also works for Pennsylvania's police training agency and was Philadelphia's inspector in charge of training.

A hit with a loose handcuff can cause serious injury, he said.

After Mr. Stine's testimony ended, the defense rested, ending testimony after nine days. Closing arguments are set for 9 a.m. Thursday.

Deliberations by the eight person jury are expected to start Thursday, U.S. District Chief Judge Gary Lancaster has said.

The officers have said that while they were trying to arrest Mr. Miles, they got a cuff around his right wrist, but he pulled that arm under his body.

Mr. Miles' attorneys used Mr. Stine's time on the stand to read into the record portions of the deposition testimony of former city Officer David Horak, who arrived on the scene after the incident had ended.

"Mr. Miles was lying face down," Officer Horak said, according to the deposition read by attorney J. Kerrington Lewis. "You could see his hands were behind his back. ... He appeared to be handcuffed."

That part of Officer Horak's testimony would seem to back Mr. Miles' account of being repeatedly pushed into the snow by the officers. The officer was not called as a witness at trial.

Earlier today, attorneys for three Pittsburgh police called a witness who heaped effusive praise on Jordan Miles, the young man who accused the officers of beating him in an encounter two and a half years ago.

"Jordan is one of the best people I have at my store," said Casey Rothermund, manager of an Oakland CVS Pharmacy store where Mr. Miles works. "I wish I could clone him into four or five more. My life would be perfect."

Mr. Miles could become a store manager, Mr. Rothermund testified.

Attorneys for officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak were apparently trying to tell the jury that Mr. Miles, 20, has no disability related to the incident, and to suggest that he may be exaggerating his difficulties.

Mr. Miles' attorneys sought to turn Mr. Rothermund's testimony to their advantage.

"Have you ever known him to make up a story about something that wasn't true?" asked Timothy O'Brien, one of Mr. Miles' attorneys.

The defense objected.

"Has he ever disobeyed something that he was told to do?" Mr. O'Brien asked.

"No," Mr. Rothermund said.

Later, Dr. Thomas Martin, who saw Mr. Miles at the emergency room of West Penn Hospital within a half-hour of the incident, said he found only "soft tissue swelling" and a two-inch twig embedded in Mr. Miles' gum, and no sign of concussion. He said an abrasion and swelling to Mr. Miles' forehead could have been consistent with an impact with a bush, but later said it could also reflect a strike with a flashlight.

Pittsburgh police Officer Lisa McCoy, who works in the evidence gathering unit, testified to the location of braids of hair found at the scene of the incident, which the officers' attorneys have said supports their account of events.

The officers were not criminally charged, and five counts filed by the officers against Mr. Miles were dismissed. Mr. Miles has sued the officers for false arrest, illegal search and seizure, malicious prosecution and excessive force.

Nine days into testimony, there are still disputes about key facts in the Jan. 12, 2010, incident on frozen Tioga Street in Homewood.

Was Mr. Miles, then an 18-year-old high school student, walking in the street from his mother's house to his grandmother's, as he has said, or was he lurking alongside a neighbor's home, as the police have claimed?

Was he talking on his cell phone, as suggested by records submitted by the plaintiff's team, or did he have his right hand in his pocket, as the officers said?

Did the plainclothes officers identify themselves as Pittsburgh police, as they said, or, as Mr. Miles testified, did they just jump out of their unmarked car, demanding to know the location of guns, drugs and money?

Was the melee that ensued a one-sided beat-down by three trained fighters against one viola player, as the plaintiff's case portrays it, or did Mr. Miles precipitate a rough arrest by elbowing Officer Saldutte and kicking Officer Sisak?

Did Mr. Miles have a Mountain Dew bottle that the officers said they mistook for a gun in his pocket, or was that a lie created to justify the arrest, as the plaintiff's team has alleged?

And did hostilities end with the application of handcuffs to Mr. Miles, as the officers adamantly said, or did the rough treatment continue, even including a blow to the head with a hard object, as the young man testified?

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. First Published August 1, 2012 3:30 PM


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