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Local artist says conduct charge is false

| Thursday, Sept. 19, 2002, 12:00 p.m.

A Hill District artist and activist who claims police officers roughed him up during an arrest in July will go to trial on a disorderly conduct charge.

Jorge Myers, 45, of Wylie Avenue, said the officer who arrested him and who testified during his preliminary hearing Wednesday was lying when he said Myers was swearing at police officers when they found him in an abandoned Hill District building.

Pittsburgh magistrate Moira Harrington ruled that there is enough evidence to hold Myers for court on the disorderly conduct charge. Assistant District Attorney Edward Smith had offered Myers to plead guilty to a summary offense, but Myers and his attorney, Ann Simms, refused.

After the hearing, Myers said he wasn't going to plead guilty to something he didn't do.

"I can't believe a police officer would come in to court and lie," Myers said after the hearing. "I can't believe I'm here. I need to do my job for my community. I was just trying to protect my community."

Myers has claimed that officers slammed him repeatedly into a wall while he was handcuffed. Simms said they have filed a civil complaint against the officers. That case has not gone to court.

Officer John Mook of Zone 2 police station testified yesterday that he had received a call from emergency dispatch that there were people inside 2117 Centre Ave., the former Lee's Flower Shop, now frequented by prostitutes and drug users. Emergency dispatch said it could be a possible burglary in progress, Mook said.

Mook said he entered the building and when he saw Myers, he told him to show him his hands, but Myers only held up one hand and kept one down as he carried a small green bag. Mook said Myers repeatedly refused to drop the bag and also swore at Mook and other officers who responded.

Mook said he didn't know whether Myers was carrying weapons or drugs in the bag.

Myers is a lifelong resident of the Hill District who boards up crack houses and abandoned buildings. Myers previously said that he was just taking artifacts from the building and had planned to board it up after complaints by nearby residents.

"We are looking forward to the jury trial," Simms said. "This is a travesty. It is injustice based on untruths."

Tammy Ewin, city police spokeswoman, said Chief Robert W. McNeilly Jr., believes the court found the officer's testimony credible enough to support the magistrate's decision.

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