PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Twenty-four hours after winning $105,000, $5,000 in actual damages and $100,000 in punitive damages, Anthony Kenney said he’s happy his four-year ordeal is over.
“A little relieved. I feel justice has been done. I can try now to move on with my life and put this behind me,” Kenney told KDKA’s Jon Delano.
Kenney says he hasn’t been able to shake what happened to him.
“I lived with it every day, every little detail of what happened to me up there. It was in my sleep, it was in my thoughts,” he said. “I just couldn’t seem to get it passed me. I thought about it every day.”
What Kenney said happened — and the jury believed — was excessive force by one officer while another watched after Kenney, driving without a license, failed to stop at a stop sign and didn’t signal a turn.
Kenney says he stopped when pulled over.
“When I get halfway out the car, he grabs me, and strikes me on the side of my face and he hits me so hard, and I scream cause I never had nothing like that happen to me, especially that way by a police officer. And then lifts me up, handcuffs me, and continually punching me in the side of my face,” he said.
A witness heard the screams, saw the beating, and testified at trial.
An all-white jury found for Kenney.
He won’t say racism was part of the police attack.
“They [the police] can have some hatred in some way, but I can’t say fully that they’re racists cause I don’t know. You can’t judge somebody by how they look and just because of one incident,” Kenney said.
The civil lawsuit may not be over yet.
Because the punitive damages were unusually high — 20 to one — the city may file motions to reduce the award.
But it’s the second time in four months, a jury has found Pittsburgh Police officers used excessive force against African American males they arrested.
In March, it was Jordan Miles. On Wednesday, it was Anthony Kenney who claimed he was beaten by city police.
Delano: “Is there excessive force used by the Pittsburgh Police?”
Mayor Peduto: “Well, I think in certain situations you see that.”
In civil lawsuits against the police, the awards are to be paid by city taxpayers.
“I think it sent a very strong message to the City of Pittsburgh and other City of Pittsburgh Police officers that, while we respect what they do, they do a very important job and we appreciate that, and we appreciate the service they provide, they are not above the law,” says Maggie Coleman, Kenney’s attorney.
Despite his facial injuries, Kenney thinks most cops are decent and these were just a couple of bad apples.
“It makes it look bad for these police officers. This is their career; they take care of their family. They don’t need to be called corrupt, or violent,” he said. “They’re doing their job, they’re protecting us, they’re taking a big risk. I don’t think they should be labeled what the two officers did to me.”
But getting rid of the bad apples, says Mayor Peduto, is not easy, who says his hands are often tied.
“When they slip up, and it’s a routine on several different bases, it’s time to be taken out of the bureau,” says Peduto.
But the mayor says if the city tries to fire police officers, it gets sued by the police union.
“What we end up doing is taking them off the street and putting them in an office,” he said. “They should be taken out of the force because that tarnishes the image of an entire bureau.”
With a new public safety director in place and a new police chief soon to be appointed, Peduto says reform is coming.