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Pittsburgh Reinstates 3 Officers in Beating Case

Pittsburgh Reinstates 3 Officers in Beating Case

Pittsburgh Tribune

May 06, 2011

May 6—Three Pittsburgh police officers accused of beating a Homewood teen spent more than a year in limbo, but it only took about 24 hours after hearing they won’t face federal prosecution to learn they could return to their jobs.

“This train has moved fast,” said Robert DelGreco, attorney for Officer Richard Ewing. “Within a two-day period, he’s both been exonerated and reinstated, so I’m sure he’ll need some time to think about matters.”

Chief Nate Harper would not say on Thursday when Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak will return to work or where they will be stationed except that it would not be Zone 5 in Highland Park, where they were assigned when they arrested Jordan Miles in Homewood on Jan. 12, 2010.

The reinstatement came a day after U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton announced that federal officials lack evidence to charge them after an investigation by the Department of Justice and the FBI.

The three have been on paid leave since Feb. 1, 2010, several weeks after Miles, then an 18-year-old honors student at the Creative and Performing Arts high school, accused them of beating him. The officers, who are white, said Miles, who is black, was injured when he fought with them during his arrest.

“There is no question Mr. Jordan Miles sustained injuries,” Harper said at a news conference. “But there is no evidence the injuries were a result of any wrongful conduct on the part of the officers.”

The officers spotted Miles between two houses on Tioga Street, less than 100 yards from his home. They said Miles ran and fought them, and they believed he had a gun. Miles, who did not have a weapon, said he believed the officers, who were in plain clothes, were trying to rob him.

The city’s Office of Municipal Investigations also completed its review and determined there was insufficient evidence to charge the officers, Harper said.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has said he would wait until federal authorities were finished before deciding what he would do. His spokesman, Mike Manko, said he would have no comment until the office contacts the U.S. attorney’s office next week and receives reports from OMI.

The Alliance for Police Accountability, a community group based in Homewood that formed after Miles’ arrest, planned to hold a protest today at the City-County Building, Downtown, asking Zappala to bring charges.

“They’re telling the community that police will never be held accountable for anything,” said Brandi Fisher, the group’s chairwoman. “If Jordan Miles cannot receive justice, then no one can.”

Ewing, Saldutte and Sisak were greeted with hugs and handshakes from fellow officers when they arrived at headquarters for a meeting with police officials about two hours before the announcement that they could return. The three declined to comment.

“Everyone was happy to see them return,” said Dan O’Hara, president of Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 of the Fraternal Order of Police. “There’s going to be an adjustment period for them to go back.”

Saldutte’s attorney, Bill Difenderfer, said his client is eager to return to work. “He’s obviously very happy with the decision,” Difenderfer said.

In Ewing’s case, it’s unclear if he wants to return, DelGreco said.

“This has had quite an effect on him, and he’s seriously considering not having law enforcement as an occupation,” DelGreco said.

The federal investigation took more than a year and involved interviews with more than 40 witnesses and reviews of medical and cell phone records, photos and other evidence, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

“That entire process unfortunately takes time,” said Mark Rush, a former assistant U.S. Attorney and now a partner with the K&L Gates law firm, Downtown. “But if you’re going to get it right, you have to make sure you take the time to get it right. You don’t want to rush to judgment.”

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Copyright © 2011, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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