Federal jury finds City of Pittsburgh not liable in road rage incident

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A jury in federal court today found that the city of Pittsburgh is not liable for a 2010 road rage incident in which an off-duty detective choked a Squirrel Hill man.

The eight-member jury found unanimously that the victim of the incident, Jarret Fate, 32, did not prove that then-detective Bradley Walker was acting as a police officer when he attacked the plaintiff. City attorneys had argued that because Mr. Walker was driving his son to work at the time of the incident, and did not try to arrest or cite Mr. Fate, his actions were not the city's responsibility.

"We never thought [Mr. Walker] was acting as a policeman," said Assistant Chief George Trosky, who was at one time a defendant in the case, after the verdict was read. "He wasn't. It was the right verdict."

Mr. Fate's attorney, Josh Autry, said he would appeal. In his view, he should not have had to prove that Mr. Walker was using law enforcement authority at the time of the incident.

"We've been able to uncover substantial evidence regarding how the city has poorly investigated complaint after complaint," Mr. Autry said. "I think these problems start with leadership."

Former city police chief Nate Harper was a defendant until Wednesday, when U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab let him out of the case. The judge also let Chief Trosky out of the case, saying the plaintiffs had not presented evidence that they were to blame for the incident.

City attorneys on Sunday asked Judge Schwab to quiz the jurors on whether their judgment might be affected by former chief Nate Harper's Friday indictment on unrelated criminal charges. Mr. Harper was indicted Friday on one count of conspiracy and four counts of willful failure to file federal tax returns.

Judge Schwab did that this morning, and none of the jurors were disqualified.

Mr. Fate was choked and his vintage Porsche was vandalized by Mr. Walker on May 1, 2010. Mr. Walker was fired and convicted of three misdemeanors following the incident.

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


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