To almost no one’s surprise, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala has announced he will not pursue criminal charges against the three officers accused of beating Jordan Miles during an arrest in Homewood two years ago.
At a May 16 press conference, Zappala said he agreed with federal prosecutors that a case against officers Richard Ewing, Michael Salduttte and David Sisak is not a “prosecutable case.”
|RUSH HOUR RALLY—Residents protest DA Stephen Zappala’s decision to not file criminal charges against police officers who beat Jordan Miles during a 2010 arrest. From left: Brandi Fisher, Celeste Taylor and Brittany McBryde lead B-PEP and the Alliance for Police Accountability marchers down Grant Street. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
In January 2010, the officers, working undercover, said they saw Miles, who was then a senior at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School “sneaking around” a house on Tioga Street with a “heavy object” in his coat pocket. They said they identified themselves, asked him to stop and then chased him when he ran.
They said they hit him several times when he resisted, and later charged him with aggravated assault and resisting arrests. Miles, who was hospitalized twice for the injuries he received during the arrest, said the officers never identified themselves as police.
The charges were dismissed by District Justice Oscar Petite when witnesses contradicted the officers and no “heavy object,” which the officers later said was a Mountain Dew bottle, was produced as evidence.
Zappala said he based his decision not to charge the officers on reports from the FBI investigators, transcripts of testimony in Miles’ civil case against the officers and from several “use of force” experts, all of whom said the three officers acted within the bounds of their training.
“I agree with the federal government,” he said.
Last May, US attorney David Hickton said the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division would not prosecute the officers because it could not win at trial.
“The case wouldn’t even get to a jury,” said Zappala. “The appropriate forum is the civil side.”
Jordan Miles’ mother Terez Miles said she did not expect Zappala to bring criminal charges.
“I’m just surprised it took (Zappala) this long to admit it,” she said.
At a rush-hour protest rally organized by the Alliance for Police Accountability, chair Brandi Fisher said she would seek intervention from state Attorney General Linda Kelly.
“This is not the end,” she said. “District Attorney Zappala obviously has no interest in serving justice.”
Tim Stevens, chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project, agreed, saying Zappala should’ve called in the state attorney general to investigate because he has an inherent conflict of interest.
The district attorney’s announcement came one day after Allegheny County Councilman Bill Robinson asked council to investigate possible conflicts of interest in the district attorney’s office with respect to cases of police misconduct.
Zappala reiterated that his office had brought homicide charges against Housing Authority police Officer John Charmo and Pittsburgh Police Officer Jeffrey Cooperstein—both White officers who had shot Black motorists. In the last 18 months, he said, the office has investigated 13 cases involving accusations of police misconduct.
In a press statement NAACP Pittsburgh Unit President M. Gayle Moss said she too was disappointed, but not surprised with Zappala’s decision.
“Our judicial system of Allegheny County found that there was nothing wrong with the beating,” Moss wrote. “The family said they were not surprised at the verdict. Sadly, neither were we. Lynching on trees may not be the order of the day, but senseless beatings at the hands of police that have sworn to protect have not ceased.”
Miles’ civil case against the officers is scheduled for July before US District Judge Gary Lancaster.
(Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)