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Monday, March 31, 2014

After split verdict, attorneys in Jordan Miles trial look ahead

Posted By on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 6:21 PM

Today, a federal jury reached a split verdict in CAPA High School graduate Jordan Miles’ civil trial against three police officers. But parties on both sides say the fight isn’t over.

“We have brought to light in that courtroom facts that should cause the authorities to look into whether or not these individuals should be allowed to carry a gun and protect and serve our citizens,” said Miles’ attorney Joel Sansone. “It is very clear that these defendants have not served us.”

The trial, which was four years in the making, came as a result of a January 2010 incident when Miles says he was excessively assaulted and unfairly arrested by three police officers. Officers David Sisak, Michael Saldutte, and Richard Ewing maintain they identified themselves, and approached Miles because they saw him lingering on the side of a house

The eight-person jury found in favor of Miles on the claim of false arrest, but not on the claim the officers used excessive force. They awarded Miles $101,016.75 in compensatory damages and $6,000 from each of the officers for putative damages.

“It’s a victory on my behalf… but it’s not over because God didn’t say it’s over,” Miles said

Now Miles, Sansone, and Miles’ family and supporters are calling on the city to fire officers Sisak and Saldutte. Officer Ewing has already left the city and now works for McCandless Township
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They’re also calling on the U.S. Attorney’s office to reopen an investigation into the officers’ actions.

“There’s evidence that these police officers, or at least one of them, held a serious animus,” Sansone said. “I believe these police officers should be fired. I believe they should be charged with crimes but unfortunately with today’s verdict on excessive force, that’s going to be a very difficult thing to do. That doesn’t mean the justice department can’t look into this because there are serious implications for one or more officers with regard to their motivations.”

Attorneys for the three officers said the jury’s decision was a compromise verdict. They believe the reason the jury found in favor of Miles is because they knew charges against him were dropped soon after the incident.

“We felt that determination was made only because the jury knew the criminal charges against Jordan were dismissed. It’s been our contention all along that they never should’ve been,” said James Wymard, attorney for officer Sisak. “But the charges were dismissed, because they were dismissed, this jury heard that and we feel they relied upon that in making their judgment.”

Essential Machine

Posted By on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Essential Machine
  • Essential Machine

This week's MP3 Monday comes from Essential Machine. The band has a pop/rock sound with a little folk tinge; its new album, Underneath the Earth. The song is called "Road Trip," and it's available for streaming below.

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Jury issues split verdicts in Jordan Miles case

Posted By on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 1:19 PM

According to our own Rebecca Nuttall, a federal civil jury has ruled that police officers David Sisak, Michael Saldutte and Richard Ewing falsely arrested Jordan Miles in January 2010. However, they ruled the force used to subdue Miles was not excessive.

The jury awarded Miles $119,000 in damages. He previously settled his claims with the City of Pittsburgh for $75,000. We will have further details throughout the day.

Miles was an 18-year-old CAPA High School student on Jan. 12, 2010 when he had an altercation with the three officers - David Sisak, Michael Saldutte and Richard Ewing — in his Homewood neighborhood. He says he was simply walking to his grandmother's home in Homewood when the officers approached him without identifying themselves. Thinking he was going to be robbed, Miles ran; he claims the police chased him down, beat him severely while pulling chunks of hair from his head. The three officers claim they saw Miles skulking around a neighbor’s house at 11 p.m. on Jan. 12, 2010. They stopped him and identified themselves, they say. And they say Miles had a bulge in his jacket, acted like he had a gun and ran. They say he later assaulted Sisak and Saldutte and was the aggressor in the altercation, despite being outweighed by the officers’ combined weight of more than 600 pounds. Charges against him, however, were later dropped.

This is the second go round for Miles in civil court. In August 2012, a jury found in favor of the officers on claims that they maliciously prosecuted Miles. However, the panel deadlocked on claims of false arrest and excessive force.

Concert Tonight Includes Pete Seeger Tribute

Posted By on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 9:30 AM

The show at the Carnegie Carnegie by the long-running Ferla-Marcinizyn Guitar Duo, with guest vocalist Daphne Alderson, will conclude with three numbers honoring the late folk-music legend.

Jim Ferla and John Marcinizyn have performance credits across the U.S., and frequently collaborate with Alderson, a contralto who ranges from opera to pop and cabaret.

The program opens with The Beatles’ “Nowhere Man” and includes everything from French Renaissance and Portugese art songs to contemporary works. Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” plus “We Shall Overcome” and “Turn, Turn, Turn,” wrap the program.

Seeger, an inveterate political activist and a key influence on America's mid-century folk revival, died in January at age 94.

The show is part of the “Listen Locally” series at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, in Carnegie. Tickets are $15 and are available here. A reception with the musicians follows the show.

The Carnegie Carnegie is at 300 Beechwood Ave.

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Akron-based Journalist Visits with New Rust Belt Book

Posted By on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 8:30 AM

David Giffels is at Sewickley’s Penguin Bookshop tonight with The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches From the Rust Belt.

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The book, a series of linked essays combining journalism and personal experience, explores life in Akron, Ohio, where Giffels (who was born there in the ’60s) has lived all his life.

“The portrait painted here is an honest and revealing one, illuminating the cultural factors that have given a strange, shadowy sort of hope to millions of Americans,” went the review in Publishers Weekly, in part. “An interesting and occasionally moving portrait of a place that, despite its decades-long downward slide, remians, for many, a pretty good place to live,” said Booklist.

Giffels will be at the Penguin Bookshop at 6 p.m. tonight.

The store is located at 417 ½ Beaver St., Sewickley. The event is free.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Trans activist/author Janet Mock to speak at CMU

Posted By on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 4:11 PM

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Trans activist and bestselling author Janet Mock is scheduled to speak at Carnegie Mellon University April 8 to discuss her new book, a memoir that explores everything from having gender reassignment surgery in Thailand to being a sex-worker in her teens.

The book, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, "is my story of growing up as a trans girl. It celebrates self-actualization and self-love!" according to Mock's website.

Mock has risen to prominence over the last few years (the Washington Post described her as "the current It Girl for the 'T,'" in LGBT) — starting with her first public disclosure in 2011 that she is a trans woman. Her story has since been featured in a number of national news outlets.

The event is being coordinated by the Garden of Peace Project, a community organization that (among other things) works with particularly vulnerable populations, especially within the LGBT community.

“We were looking at the book tour stops, and we noticed there wasn't one in Pittsburgh,” says Michael David Battle, Garden of Peace project founder and director, who says it wasn't hard to convince Mock's publicists to add a stop to the tour.

Along with Carnegie Mellon University, the Big Idea Bookstore and Project Silk, Battle says he's excited to bring someone to Pittsburgh who "does a really good job of talking about the intersectionality of race and gender and sexual orientation.”

“I think she’s going to bring out people of different classes, and different races and different sexual orientations,” Battle says.

Mock will offer a reading and moderated discussion of her book at CMU's Porter Hall on April 8 at 7:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

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Local "Madame Presidenta" Documentary Airs Tomorrow

Posted By on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 3:19 PM

In case you missed its premiere screening a couple weeks back, at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Heather Arnet's politically themed documentary Madame Presidenta: Why Not U.S.? airs tomorrow night on WQED.

The one-hour documentary explores how women are emerging as political leaders around the world, espeically in Brazil, where Dilma Rousseff is president. Arnet interviews women from different regions and backgrounds in Brazil to trace the changes there.

There is a trailer here.

The film is a collaboration between Arnet's Women and Girls Foundation and ELAS, the Women's Social Investment Fund of Brazil.

Madame Presidente screens at 10 p.m. as part of WQED's Filmmakers Corner series.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Downtown Participants Sought for Saturday's Earth Hour

Posted By on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 4:01 PM

The Green Building Alliance, the City of Pittsburgh and other partners are seeking Downtown property-owners who'll turn off or dim their roof-top signage and other nonessential lighting for one hour this Saturday night as part of the international observance.

Last year, more than 7,000 cities in 153 countries participated in Earth Hour.

Property owners are asked to dim the lights between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. A GBA photography team will be posted on Mount Washington to record what Downtown looks like on this opposite-of-Light Up Night.

The idea, of course, is to raise environmental awareness about the effect of energy usage on things like climate change. Who knows, maybe the effort will even make a few more stars visible.

If interested, sign up on GBA's website.

The project is also being sponsored by the Mayor's Office, Sustainable Pittsburgh and the GBA's Pittsburgh 2030 District, which has recruited Downtown property-owners to commit to reducing their energy use, water use and transportation emissions by 50 percent by 2030. So far, more than 100 buildings are participating.

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Squirrel Hillbillies Album Release Party

Posted By on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 3:14 PM

Squirrel Hillbillies
  • Photo courtesy of Faith Selzer
  • Squirrel Hillbillies

The Squirrel Hillbillies are a folk, country and blues duo that have been making music together since 2010. The duo recently released their second studio album, Goody Shoes, and on Sun., March 30, they will be having an album release party at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill branch. They will be performing tracks from the album. The event will take place from 2-4 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Along with the Squirrel Hillbillies will be special guest Jason Rafalak.

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Council Passes Resolution on Antibiotics in Livestock

Posted By on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 8:53 AM

Pittsburgh City Council is among the first in the country to pass a resolution calling for federal legislation to rein in antibiotics use on factory farms.

On Tuesday, council adopted the resolution, which “supports a statewide and national ban on nontherapeutic uses of antibiotics in livestock production.”

As detailed in CP in February, nationally based group Food & Water Watch had asked council to approve the measure as part of its campaign to pass the Protection of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) and the Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA), in the U.S. House and Senate, respectively. The resolution says Council “will send letters to our Congressional Representatives and U.S. Senators” urging them to co-sponsor the bills.

In particular, the group is targeting U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Bans on nontherapeutic uses of antibiotics on cattle, pigs and chicken, for instance, are controversial, though much of the opposition seems to originate in the pharmaceutical industry. Similar bans in European countries, including the Netherlands, are generally regarded as successful.

“We applaud Pittsburgh, PA for passing one of the first city-council resolutions in the country, calling on federal legislators rein in the rampant use of antibiotics on factory farms,” Food & Water Watch volunteer Nicole Kubiczki, a Pittsburgh resident, said in a press release.

“Factory farms feed low doses of antibiotics to livestock to promote unnatural growth and compensate for filthy, crowded living conditions,” said Kubiczki. “As a result, we’re entering an age in which these life-saving medicines are no longer working to treat infections in humans. We need to change course in our handling of antibiotics in this country, and Pittsburgh took action to stand in support of public health this morning.”

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