An innocent Philadelphia man who spent four years in jail awaiting trial was awarded $10 million by a jury recently. Khanefah Boozer, 33, got the verdict May 10 for his lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas alleging that he served four years on false charges of shooting at an officer. It is reportedly the largest jury verdict for police misconduct in Philadelphia history.
"He was obviously factually innocent from the get-go," Boozer's attorney Robert Levant, said in a press conference announcing the verdict. "There was also a complete breakdown and failure in investigating his case."
In 2011, Boozer was arrested and charged with shooting a gun at a Philly cop. After being jailed for three years and nine months pretrial on $500,000 bail, he was acquitted. But Boozer and Levant say nothing close to the alleged shooting ever happened. According to them, on the late night of Jan. 21 and early morning hours of Jan. 22 in 2011, Boozer was near the home of some friends in Germantown, one of whom was behaving erratically and shot a gun into the air. Police arrived as Boozer was getting into his car to leave, and Levant said Officer Ryan Waltman accused him of not only being the shooter, but shooting at them.
"In addition to the fact that my client didn't commit any crime out there, the facts that were alleged by Officer Waltman, and given to the detective, never happened," Levant said.
A spokesman for the city released a statement saying the city plans to appeal the verdict. Waltman, still an active-duty police officer, stuck to his version of events when he testified at trial and continues to assert that Boozer did shoot at him, Levant said.
Boozer lost his job as a full-time Home Depot employee while he was arrested. His mother and sister also died while he was in custody. He hopes to potentially return to his former career as a barber and possibly open a barbershop, Levant said.
Levant also said the jury's verdict should send a message to Philadelphia leaders about the gravity of the case.
"Today, 12 citizens from Philadelphia sent a message that I believe will bring change much faster," Levant said. "It's a message that should be heard by Mayor Kenney. It's a message that should be heard by Commissioner Ross. It's a message that should be heard loud and clear throughout the city of Philadelphia, that this will not be tolerated by the citizens of Philadelphia."