Attorneys representing Steelers offensive lineman Mike Adams and one of the men acquitted of stabbing him last year squared off Tuesday in civil court.
Dquay Means, charged with two others with attempted homicide for the attack on the South Side on June 1, 2013, filed a lawsuit against Mr. Adams in May alleging five claims, including wrongful use of criminal process, malicious prosecution, false arrest, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation.
On Tuesday, attorney David White, who represents Mr. Adams, argued before Common Pleas Judge W. Terrence O’Brien that under Pennsylvania law, Mr. Means cannot sustain any of his claims.
Mr. White asked that the lawsuit be dismissed.
“What’s critical to this whole case — my client in no way, shape or form initiated any type of actions against Mr. Means,” Mr. White said. “Mr. Adams did not cause the arrest. Pittsburgh police arrested Mr. Means.”
“You’re saying only a DA or law enforcement official can be sued for malicious prosecution?” Judge O’Brien asked.
“Yes,” Mr. White responded. “Whether you believe his story or not, it’s irrelevant. He didn’t initiate charges. There was probable cause here.”
Mr. Means, Jerrell Whitlock and Michael Paranay, were charged following the 3 a.m. attack at 17th and East Carson streets. A jury found all three not guilty on April 30.
Mr. Means filed his lawsuit just two weeks later — after, Mr. White said, he sought money from Mr. Adams to settle.
During the criminal trial, Mr. Means’ defense attorney, Fred Rabner, argued that Mr. Adams changed his story to the police repeatedly, and initially did not include any claim that Mr. Means pointed a gun at him.
At trial, Mr. Adams testified that Mr. Means showed him a gun that morning.
But the three defendants claimed at trial that there was no attempted robbery, and that instead Mr. Adams was drunk, knocked food out of Mr. Paranay’s hand and a fight ensued.
As part of the lawsuit, Mr. Rabner alleges defamation, saying that Mr. Adams fabricated his story because he was afraid he would get into trouble with the Steelers.
“He made up a story that would make him a victim rather than a participant in a brawl,” Mr. Rabner said. “We’re talking about malicious intent to pervert the system for his own motivation. It’s his false allegation that led to the charges.”
But Mr. White said his client has an absolute privilege because any of the statements he made were related to the court proceedings.
Judge O’Brien, who said he wouldn’t rule for several days, seemed to agree.
“It doesn’t matter if he’s lying through his teeth, he’s protected from the stand.”
In the meantime, Mr. Adams has retained attorney Billy Goodrich to investigate filing a civil suit against Mr. Means and his two co-defendants.
Among the claims being considered are assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress, Mr. Goodrich said.
He likened the situation to O.J. Simpson being found not guilty in his criminal trial for homicide, but being found liable in the civil case on the same set of circumstances.
The burden in a criminal case is proof beyond a reasonable doubt — the highest burden in the American court system. In a civil lawsuit, the burden requires only a preponderance of the evidence — a significantly lesser burden.
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter: @PaulaReedWard.