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Miles: Officers never identified themselves during 2010 arrest

| Thursday, March 20, 2014, 11:20 a.m.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Jordan Miles arrives at the Federal Courthouse, Downtown, on Thursday, March 20, 2014, before the start of the day's proceedings of his civil trial.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Officers Michael Saldutte (left) and David Sisak (far right) and former Officer Richard Ewing (center) arrive at the Federal Courthouse, Downtown, on Thursday, March 20, 2014, before the start of the day's proceedings of the Jordan Miles civil trial.

In the four years since his arrest, Jordan Miles' life has been dominated by the civil rights lawsuit playing out before a federal jury, the Homewood man said on Thursday.

Miles, 22, testified that he was shocked when another inmate in the Allegheny County Jail told him that he was missing some of his dreadlocks. He used the reflection of a paper towel dispenser to get some idea of what the man was talking about.

When he knew he would have to shave off the rest of his dreadlocks, it depressed him, Miles said.

“I loved my hair,” Miles said. “It meant everything to me. It was something I cherished.”

In response to a question from his attorney, Miles said he hasn't grown his hair long because he wants to present a professional appearance to the jury and knows that dreadlocks carry negative stereotypes.

Regardless of the outcome, once the trial is over, he plans to regrow his hair and move on with his life, he said.

“I'll be able to pick up the things I once loved and do them again,” Miles said.

Miles claims that Pittsburgh police Officers David Sisak and Michael Saldutte and then-Officer Richard Ewing lacked probable cause and used excessive force during his Jan. 12, 2010, arrest on Tioga Street in Homewood.

The officers contend he was acting suspiciously and ran when questioned. This is the second time Miles' lawsuit has gone to trial.

A federal jury in August 2012 deadlocked on the arrest and excessive force claims. The jury, though, found for the officers on Miles' claim that they maliciously prosecuted him on criminal charges that later were dismissed.

Miles took the stand on the seventh day of testimony in this second trial. He was still being cross-examined when U.S. District Judge David Cercone called a halt and sent the jurors home. He later invoked a gag order until after the trial is over.

During testimony, a relaxed and confident Miles told jokes at his own expense while being questioned by one of his lawyers, Joel Sansone.

He said he wanted to learn to play a musical instrument because his two older brothers played piano, but he didn't want a “sissy” instrument like a violin and instead wanted to play a trombone or some other “manly” brass instrument.

He picked the viola because it sounded exotic and he thought it would be some kind of horn.

“I wanted to be different from everybody else,” he said.

When it was too late to change his mind, he opened the case.

“It looked just like a violin,” he told the eight jurors.

During junior high and the first years of high school, he was content to be a C student, Miles said.

“I was more interested in making friends, laughing and having a good time,” he said.

His main interest was impressing girls, and one way he tried to do that was by posting pictures of himself flexing his muscles on his MySpace page, he said.

Sansone put up a picture of a teenage Miles in his underwear.

“What are we looking at here?” he asked.

“An embarrassment,” Miles answered.

When Sansone asked whether pictures like that impressed girls, he responded, “Definitely does.”

Miles said his attitude changed in the 11th grade. He started pushing himself to get A's and B's and make the honor roll. He developed a passion for playing his viola, particularly in a string quartet.

“When you make music with people, it's one of the greatest feelings in life,” he said.

Under cross-examination by James Wymard, Sisak's lawyer, Miles became more guarded and somber.

Taking him through the two days before his arrest, Wymard questioned why Miles wasn't doing any homework if he had become a dedicated student.

He questioned why details that were clear to Miles in previous testimony, such as the Timberland boots he was wearing or where the officers actually arrested him, were fuzzy this time around.

Testimony is scheduled to resume on Monday.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or

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