Jordan Miles' attorney: Cops thought 'he was some black, drug dealing punk'

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Attorneys for both sides in the Jordan Miles civil trial began making closing arguments today and the three-week exploration of the controversial police abuse allegation is expected to go to the jury shortly.

The police "thought that he was some black, drug dealing punk, and were going to take him down, and they took him down," J. Kerrington Lewis, Mr. Miles' attorney, said this afternoon in some of the last words heard by the jury before deliberations. "No one has the right to take from you yourself, your being, your spirit. That's what they did to him."

Mr. Lewis reiterated the case the plaintiff's team has offered from day one.

"Jordan is a wonderful young man, any one of us would be proud to have as a son, or a brother, or a nephew," he said.

But the officers didn't see it that way, he said, and used on him a tactic called the "jump out" that is often applied on wanted men or suspected drug dealers.

"They startle them, they intimidate them, and they can get the fear on the street thugs" with that tactic, he said. "But this was no street thug. Was that kid terrified? Was he telling the truth? Of course he was."

So he ran, precipitating the chase and rough arrest.

"They deny pulling his hair out," Mr. Lewis said. "They deny hitting him with that flashlight after he was handcuffed."

But there were six dreadlocks found at the scene of the incident, he said, and one officer's flashlight was mysteriously lost.

The defense had gotten its turn first and focused much of its effort on defining Mr. Miles.

"He's a little bit like the boy who cried wolf," attorney Bryan Campbell said in representing Officer Michael Saldutte. "He told his mother, he told his grandmother, a story," that three men jumped out of a car and beat him.

"He never knew that his story was going to go beyond his mother and his grandmother," he said.

It did, though, generating investigations by the city's Office of Municipal Investigations, the FBI and the Allegheny County district attorney.

Finally, it became a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

"This case is about one thing: Money," Mr. Campbell said. "He wants money. He wants you to bring verdicts against these police officers so he gets money."

James Wymard, attorney for Officer David Sisak, closed first.

He proposed to the jury an answer to one of the central questions of the case: Why Mr. Miles would have been standing alongside a house at 7940 Tioga St., where he did not live, on a cold night around 11 p.m., as the officers claim.

Mr. Miles has denied being beside the house.

"Only he knows why he went to the side of that house," Mr. Wymard said.

The attorney's theory: "He gets halfway up the block and he senses a car coming up behind him. Realize the violence, the gunshots, the robberies, the carjackings" that plague Homewood. "Does he decide, I'm going to duck into the nearest house, let that car go by?"

The police, Mr. Wymard said, drove by.

"So he emerges, thinking the car is gone, he's safe," the attorney said.

But the car turned around as the police decided to investigate, viewing Mr. Miles as suspicious. The police identified themselves, Mr.

Wymard said.

"How's he going to explain this to mom and grandma?" Mr. Wymard asked.

"What does he do? He bolts back to mom's house. ... Slips and falls. The rest is history."

Mr. Miles has told his psychiatrist that he made a mistake, Mr. Wymard said.

"Well, he did," the attorney said. "He ran. ... We know the consequences when you run from the police."

Mr. Miles, now 20, has said that he was walking from his mother's house to his grandmother's on frozen Tioga Street on Jan. 12, 2010. An unmarked car pulled up, three plainclothes police jumped out, and without identifying themselves they chased him down and beat him, he testified during the first week.

The officers have said they saw Mr. Miles loitering between two houses that were not his own, clearly identified themselves and saw a bulge in his coat.

He ran, they chased him and they arrested him using only the force necessary, they have said.

The complaint charges that the officers improperly arrested, seized, beat and charged Mr. Miles.

The city paid the plaintiffs $75,000 to settle the charge that it failed to train and supervise the officers, but would be on the hook for any jury verdict.

The officers were not criminally charged. Charges against Mr. Miles were dismissed at a preliminary hearing.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.


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