WTAE—All charges were dismissed Thursday against a Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts student who said he was brutalized by three city police officers who arrested him in Homewood.
Jordan Miles, 18, and his mother, Terez, told Channel 4 Action News that they were relieved by District Judge Oscar Petite’s decision to toss the charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest.
“It’s a lot of stress,” Jordan Miles said outside the courtroom. “It’s the third time I’ve been to court. The third time, it’s successful.”
Surrounded by friends and family, Terez Miles said, “I started clapping until they said ‘shut up.’ I was very, very happy, very thrilled.”
Jordan Miles was arrested Jan. 12 in Homewood. The CAPA violist said he was walking to his grandmother’s house late at night on Tioga Street when three non-uniformed officers approached him. He ended up in a hospital with facial bruises, swollen eyes and hair ripped from his scalp.
“I don’t want anybody to have the impression of me that I’m some gang banger or anything, just because of the neighborhood I live in,” Jordan Miles said after the hearing ended.
The officers involved in the case — Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak — have been pulled off the job and put on paid administrative leave by order of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl until the city’s internal investigation is complete.
Thursday’s hearing had been twice postponed — first in January because, according to court documents, the police officers did not show up, and again in February at the request of the DA’s office.
On Thursday, Saldutte took the stand and testified that he saw a male who was standing close to a house and putting his hand in his pocket, and he yelled “Pittsburgh police, hold up.” Saldutte said he kept noticing the male’s hand in his pocket.
Miles started to run, fell, and ran down the sidewalk. Saldutte said he ordered Miles to stop, and when he came up behind Miles, the teen struck him with an elbow to Saldutte’s head.
Saldutte testified that Miles put up a fight and said “don’t take me to jail, just let me go home.”
Miles’ lawyer, Kerrington Lewis, cross-examined Saldutte, questioning the difference in size between the officer and Miles.
Earlier reports had indicated that officers said they identified themselves after noticing a bulge in Miles’ pants that they suspected could be a gun. It supposedly turned out to be a soda bottle, but it was never turned in to evidence by police and Lewis has disputed its existence.
Questions also arose in court Thursday about witness accounts.
A responding patrol officer testified that, on the night of Jordan Miles’ arrest, he asked a woman who was allegedly a victim of Miles’ supposed prowling if she knew him.
“She said, ‘I don’t know him, I’ve never seen him before in my life,” the officer testified.
The same witness — Monica Wooding — testified Thursday that she has known Jordan Miles for years and that she never said she didn’t know him, despite a police affidavit which states she did tell police that.
“Her testimony — it was tortured, it was perjured. Not her testimony, but her statement in the affidavit. It was perjury, without a doubt,” Lewis said. “I hope that’s investigated, because if that goes on, the whole system falls.”
Spokesman Mike Manko released this statement from the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office:
“Any time charges are dismissed at the preliminary hearing stage, our office reviews the matter. In this instance, the judge assigned substantial legal significance to the testimony of the victim of the prowling charge. Our office will have to take a close look at that.”
Chuck Hanlon, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, said the union is disappointed in the judge’s decision and he thinks the entire matter could have been avoided.
“All Jordan Miles had to do was listen to the commands he was given — lawful orders by a police officer. If he would have just stood still, we wouldn’t be talking about this today,” Hanlon said.
Miles has said he only resisted because he didn’t know the men were police and he thought he was being attacked.
With Miles in the clear, the three officers’ future job status is in the hands of internal investigators. The city’s Office of Municipal Investigations has been looking into Miles’ claims of police brutality and civil rights violations.
Thursday’s hearing “will allow us to finally once and for all conclude our OMI investigation, which will happen here shortly,” Ravenstahl said. “I anticipate making a recommendation to the chief at some point next week on what the city’s actions will be next.”
Police Chief Nate Harper has declined to comment while the investigation continues.
Terez Miles hinted Thursday at future legal action against police but didn’t elaborate.