$10 Million Award for Wrongly Jailed Philadelphia Man
A Philadelphia jury awarded Khanefah Boozer $10 million in a state court lawsuit that alleged police officer Ryan Waltman had falsely accused Boozer of firing shots at him.
Boozer was the designated driver during a January 22, 2011 night out with friends. After an evening at a bar, Boozer’s friends insisted on driving their own vehicle rather than riding with him. Out of concern for their safety he followed them. As they approached a friend’s house, Bruno Rosales fired his handgun several times into the air out of the lead car’s window. Boozer scolded Rosales then drove away.
Officer Waltman and his partner, David Palma, were on burglary detail when they heard the shots, and as they entered the area they stopped Boozer. He fully cooperated and told them that Rosales had fired the gun from another car out of “drunken and reckless thrill.” Police investigated the other men but found no weapons and released them.
Boozer, however, was arrested and charged with assault of a law enforcement officer, aggravated assault, violation of the Uniform Firearms Act, reckless endangerment of another person, possession of an instrument of crime and simple assault. His bail was set at $500,000. Boozer was unable to come up with the required 10 percent, thus he sat in jail for almost 3½ years as the case moved slowly through the judicial process.
Waltman and Palma testified at preliminary proceedings and at trial that Boozer was in possession of a silver firearm that he fired at Waltman shortly before the arrest. No gun was ever recovered. To solidify the charges against Boozer, Waltman filed an amended report that said an unknown person fled the scene, suggesting that person left with the gun.
A jury in the criminal case, as in the civil case, believed that Boozer had been framed, and he was acquitted of the charges on September 18, 2014.
Boozer then filed a civil complaint in state court. At the close of evidence, all of the defendants except Waltman were dismissed. On May 10, 2018 the jury found that Waltman was liable for Boozer’s “malicious prosecution,” as he had “maliciously caused a criminal proceeding to be commenced and continued against Boozer.” The jury awarded $5 million in compensatory damages plus $5 million in punitive damages.
Boozer was represented by attorney Robert J. Levant, who said in a press release, “[Twelve] jurors from an array of backgrounds sent a clear and strong message that they will not tolerate false allegations against a fellow citizen and the culture of the blue wall of silence must end right now.” See: Boozer v. Waltman, First Judicial District Common Pleas Court of Pennsylvania, Case No. 1609-00497.
Additional sources: www.whyy.org, www.prnewswire.com
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Related legal case
Boozer v. Waltman
|Cite||First Judicial District Common Pleas Court of Pennsylvania, Case No. 1609-00497|