PITTSBURGH — A judge has dismissed charges against a teenage arts student who says three Pittsburgh police officers beat him during his arrest on prowling and other charges near his home, in a case that led to an FBI investigation into possible civil rights violations.
The decision Thursday came after one of the three arresting officers, Michael Saldutte, testified for the first time against 18-year-old Jordan Miles, who had been charged with loitering and prowling, aggravated assault and resisting arrest in the Jan. 12 confrontation.
But it was the testimony of alleged prowling victim, Monica Wooding, that District Judge Oscar Petite Jr. cited as the key to dismissing all the charges.
Wooding, who lives about 70 yards from Miles, testified that police never asked whether she knew Miles, or if he had permission to be on her property - where police accused him of prowling. Wooding said she knows Miles because he is friends with her son.
Wooding's testimony contradicted a police affidavit that said she denied knowing Miles and told police he didn't have permission to be on her property.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr.'s office will review the case to determine whether the charges should be refiled.
"In this instance, the judge assigned substantial legal significance to the testimony of the victim of the prowling charge," Zappala's spokesman Mike Manko said. "We will have to take a close look at that."
Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper and his spokeswoman, Diane Richard, did not immediately return calls for comment.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl on Feb. 1 suspended with pay the three white plainclothes officers, Saldutte, David Sisak and Richard Ewing pending an internal investigation.
Ravenstahl said then that he expected that investigation would be finished by the end of February, but the findings have yet to be released. His press secretary, Joanna Doven, didn't immediately return calls for comment Thursday.
Miles' attorney, J. Kerrington Lewis, said "justice was served" by the judge's decision.
"It's unbelievable, they corrupted the whole process," Lewis said of the police.
Miles, a violist who attends Pittsburgh's prestigious Creative and Performing Arts High School, claims the officers beat him without provocation, then concocted a story that he was acting suspiciously to justify the confrontation.
A criminal complaint says Miles was standing against a building "as if he was trying to avoid being seen." A police affidavit says officers saw something heavy in Miles pocket and believed he was carrying a gun - which police said turned out to be a bottle of Mountain Dew. Miles has said he didn't have the soda before he was punched, kicked and had dreadlocks pulled from his scalp.
Saldutte testified that officers identified themselves before approaching Miles because he was acting suspiciously, and that a struggle ensued when he tried to run away.
Miles has said he resisted only because officers didn't identify themselves as police, and he thought he was being attacked.
Lewis, his attorney, said the testimony of Saldutte - who is a martial arts instructor - wasn't credible because he claimed he didn't pull out a large patch of Miles' hair and said he didn't see the other officers do that either.
"So his hair just fell out, I guess," Lewis said.
Saldutte said he didn't keep the soda bottle that police claimed Miles was carrying because "it wasn't evidence," Lewis said.
The attorney said Miles has passed a lie detector test as part of the FBI's investigation into possible civil rights violations in the case. A Pittsburgh FBI spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment on that investigation.
Terez Miles said she was pleased the charges were dropped against her son, and said she hoped the police officers go to jail for what they did.
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"They beat my son unmercifully; it amounts to torture," she said.