In the largest-ever civil verdict against a Philadelphia police officer, jurors awarded $10 million to a man who was wrongly imprisoned for more than three years based on the officer’s false charge that the suspect fired a gun at him. The city says it was an honest mistake.
In the largest-ever civil verdict against a Philadelphia police officer, jurors on Thursday awarded $10 million to a man who was wrongly imprisoned for more than three years based on the officer’s false testimony, reports Philly.com. The money was awarded to Khanefah Boozer, 33, who was jailed on $500,000 bail while he awaited trial for allegedly firing a gun at officer Ryan Waltman. When Boozer finally was tried in 2014, another man testified that he, not Boozer, had fired the gun — in the air and not at the officer. Boozer’s attorney, Robert Levant, said the case was not properly investigated, that Boozer was “obviously innocent,” and that while he was behind bars on the false testimony of police, his mother and sister died. Lawyers for the city contended that Waltman made an honest mistake in accusing Boozer of firing a gun.
The verdict was more than twice the previous highest award, made to a deliveryman after he was mistakenly shot by police officers in 2014. Between 2013 and 2016, the city averaged $9.7 million per year to resolve dozens of police-related civil rights cases filed in civil court. And in fiscal year 2017-18, the city budgeted $44.9 million to cover payouts in lawsuits against all agencies. Boozer’s payout alone would account for 22 percent of that total. Boozer said that while he was driving in 2011, a friend traveling in a separate car fired a gun into the air for “amusement.” Waltman pulled over the car driven by Boozer, and accused him of firing the gun at the officer. At the trial in 2014, the friend testified that he fired the gun. Boozer was acquitted and filed suit. Civil rights lawyers said the case highlighted flaws in Philadelphia’s criminal justice system. “The system failed him at a number of levels,” said Levant.