Former friend’s memory lapse bedevils Miles trial

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Faced with multiple, apparently conflicting statements he’d made about his former friend’s possession of Mountain Dew, Ryan Allen’s memory went blank Tuesday on the witness stand at the Jordan Miles civil trial.

“I cannot recall that conversation,” said Mr. Allen, 21, of Wilkinsburg when asked about FBI Special Agent Sonia Bush’s interview of him three years ago. He similarly forgot his conversations with Mr. Miles, and his testimony before a federal grand jury and the first trial in the case.

Documents didn’t help. “It didn’t refresh my memory,” he said after reviewing Agent Bush’s written report.

Mr. Allen’s appearance came on the ninth day of testimony pitting Mr. Miles, 22, of Homewood against police Officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak, who are accused of false arrest and excessive force. It followed Mr. Miles’ testimony Monday that Mr. Allen changed his tune regarding Mountain Dew because he “did not want to be a part of this case.”

The highly caffeinated beverage is a fulcrum of the case because the officers said they saw a bulge in Mr. Miles’ pocket, thought it was a gun, accordingly kicked and punched him, then discovered it was a bottle. Mr. Miles has said he neither carried nor drank the soft drink.

“You don’t want to hurt Jordan in this courtroom today, do you?” asked attorney Robert Leight, representing Officer Ewing. “You don’t want to be known as a snitch, do you?”

“I’m here to tell the truth,” Mr. Allen said, adding that he was under subpoena.

Asked by Mr. Leight if he was worried about committing perjury, Mr. Allen said, “What’s perjury?” Told that it was lying under oath, he continued to claim no memory.

Agent Bush investigated Mr. Miles’ allegations of police brutality for the Justice Department, which opted not to prosecute the officers. The defense was poised to call her to establish what Mr. Allen told her Mr. Miles told him.

After hours of debate and review, U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone decided that would be hearsay, and allowed her to testify only to one narrow point.

James Wymard asked her about a paragraph of her report, in which she paraphrased Mr. Miles as saying “that [the officers] observed him coming from the house and asked where he was going. Miles told them he was going home.”

She confirmed that was his account, adding that Mr. Miles based that conclusion on statements made after the officers handcuffed him.

The officers have said that Jan. 12, 2010, they saw Mr. Miles between two houses, sought to question him, and he ran. A Taser didn’t work, Officer Ewing said Tuesday. Mr. Miles fought them, and when they thought they felt a gun, they struck his head and handcuffed him, the officer told the jury.

Officer Ewing vehemently denied that anyone hit Mr. Miles after he was handcuffed. “That never happened. I can’t say that enough.”

At times, he revealed frustration. “How fast everything happened, it was bang, bang, bang, and we’ve spent four years analyzing three minutes,” Officer Ewing said.

He said he left the Pittsburgh police for McCandless in part because of the case.

“You can encounter an individual like this or circumstances like this at any time in the city,” he said.

Former Homewood resident Monica Wooding reiterated that she found an ammunition magazine in her yard, the scene of the incident, on the morning after.

Showed two clips by plaintiff’s attorney Joel Sansone, Ms. Wooding pointed to one which she said looked like the one observed in her yard.

“She pointed to a clip which has inscribed on it Glock 9 mm,” Mr. Sansone said. “Did you know, ma’am, that Mr. Sisak carried a Glock 9 mm?”

The magazine was not allowed into evidence at a 2012 trial, after which a majority of jurors found in favor of the officers, necessitating the retrial.


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord. First Published March 25, 2014 11:53 AM


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