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Federal jury hangs on Pittsburgh man's wrongful arrest lawsuit

Attorneys for an African American Pittsburgh man who was arrested and beaten by three white police officers in January 2010 say their client will continue his legal battle after a federal court jury failed to come to a verdict on allegations of false arrest and excessive force against the officers. That means that a future jury will re-hear the case against the officers, who allegedly arrested the plaintiff for lurking without identifying themselves, hit him on the head and choked him while he was handcuffed.

The arrest took place late on Jan. 12, 2010. The plaintiff was walking to his grandmother's house when the three officers, who were not wearing uniforms, pulled up in a car. They asked the plaintiff for money, drugs and a gun, the plaintiff said, which his attorneys described as a common Pittsburgh police tactic.

Believing he was about to be robbed, the plaintiff, then 18, ran away and the officers pursued him. They caught up to him and he struggled but was placed in handcuffs. According to the plaintiff, the officers then chocked and beat him on the head with a hard object. He said that the beating gave him problems with his short-term memory and post-traumatic stress disorder, preventing him from finishing college. He was charged with loitering, prowling at night, resisting arrest, escape and assaulting police, but prosecutors dropped all charges two months later.

The man later sued the officers for wrongful arrest, excessive force and malicious prosecution. The officers claimed that a neighbor told them that she did not know the plaintiff or what he was doing outside the night of the arrest, but the neighbor denied saying that. They also contended that they saw a bulge in the plaintiff's clothes that they believed was a gun but turned out to be a soda bottle. The plaintiff denied carrying anything in his clothing.

After five days of deliberation, the jury found the officers not guilty of malicious prosecution but deadlocked on the other counts. One of the plaintiff's attorneys said he would pursue a retrial on at least the excessive force charge.

Source: Wilkes Barre Times-Leader, "Partial verdict in Pa. beating case favors police," Aug. 11, 2012

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