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Mar. 9 2010 - 2:07 pm | 481 views | 1 recommendation | 0 comments

As charges against Jordan Miles are dismissed, a complicated battle emerges

jordan miles_pam panchak_post gazette

Jordan Miles' day in court, March 4, 2010. (Photograph: Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette)

On Thursday March 4, nearly two months since the incident occurred, and after multiple postponements, District Judge Oscar Petite Jr. dismissed all charges against Jordan Miles, the teen allegedly beaten by three undercover Pittsburgh police officers this past January.

Miles, an 18-year-old student at Pittsburgh’s CAPA high school, was charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest. The charges stem from a January 12 incident in which police said Miles looked suspicious, and appeared to have a heavy object in his coat that was thought to be a gun, while walking on Tioga Street in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

However, Judge Petite left open the possibility that the case could be refiled using a different affidavit. And this loose end in the case has Bill Diffenderfer, defense attorney for the officers involved in the incident, already calling for the charges to be refiled. Yesterday, Diffenderfer told KDKA News that Petite was not the judge who was supposed to hear the case — that his name was not on the list supplied by the court.

“In hearing the case it should go to whoever is on the list. Then there’s no sign of impropriety, there’s no sign of some type of an interest or an agenda or whatever,” he told KDKA. “That could possibly, possibly be the case here.”

But what exactly is Diffenderfer insinuating? According to court officials, Petite was the judge originally slated to hear Miles’ case before its multiple postponements. And while the court did not explain why Jim Motznik (the magistrate “on the list” for Miles’ case last Thursday) did not hear the case, Diffenderfer’s reaction raises suspicion. Which leads me to some conspiracy-theory type speculation: Was the Miles’ case initially postponed because the defense did not like the choice of Petite as judge? And were these postponements a strategy to find a judge who would be more likely to uphold the charges against Miles and validate the officers’ actions?

Obviously, the main reason Diffenderfer is upset is because a dismissal of charges implies a certain level of fault on his clients’ behalf. That also explains why the Fraternal Order of Police is frustrated with Judge Petite’s ruling.

“Obviously myself and all the members of the Fraternal Order of Police are very upset about Judge Petite’s decision to throw out the charges against Jordan Miles,” Charles Hanlon, vice president of the F.O.P., told KDKA News last week. “They’re destroyed. I have three of the hardest working Pittsburgh police officers that saw their careers take a dive today.”

In condemning the ruling, however, the Fraternal Order of Police and Diffenderfer have failed to acknowledge the details and testimony that informed Petite’s decision. First on the list is the phantom bottle of Mountain Dew that officers claim was the “heavy object” they initially believed was a gun in Miles’ jacket pocket. The bottle has so far been an issue glossed over by police, but Kerrington Lewis, Miles’ attorney, has been persistent in citing its glaring absence in the arresting officers’ evidence files.  According to Mr. Lewis, the bottle never existed.

Second, and most influential in Petite’s ruling, was most likely the testimony of Monica Wooding — a neighbor of the Miles’ family:

Testimony during the preliminary hearing turned on a section of the affidavit of probable cause in which officers claimed they spoke with a resident in the 7900 block of Tioga that night, and that she said she didn’t know Mr. Miles, and that he should not have been on her property.

However, the woman who lives there, Monica Wooding, testified on Mr. Miles’ behalf that she never made that statement to the officers. She’s known Mr. Miles for several years, and he’s friends with her son. (via Post-Gazette)

Woodings’ testimony is important, because it hints at potential perjured statements by police in the affidavit. Bit with the FBI investigation into the incident still ongoing, it is unclear what details are being closely examined. Whatever the outcome of that investigation, Diffenderfer

“I certainly hope the district attorney, Steve Zappala, looks into this and does the right thing, re-files the charges in front of a magistrate who has absolutely no interest and is not a magistrate who’s asking to hear the case,” Diffenderfer told KDKA News.

According to the D.A.’s office, the ruling is under review. And yesterday, WPXI reported that the Fraternal Order of Police was petitioning the D.A.’s office to have the charges re-filed against Miles. WPXI is also reporting alleged discrepancies in the photo of Miles that was widely circulated after the incident:

The controversial photo, obtained by Channel 11, was allegedly taken in the Allegheny County Jail after Miles was treated at West Penn Hospital. His hair on the right side of his head appears intact.But another photograph released by Miles’ lawyer shows a significant section of hair ripped from the student’s head. Attorney Kerry Lewis said the photo was taken in the hospital and is authentic.

Included below are videos featuring Terez Miles and Kerrington Lewis that were filmed following Judge Petite’s ruling last Thursday (via One Hood):

Kerrington Lewis, Jordan Miles’ attorney:

Terez Miles, mother of Jordan Miles:


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