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$10M Verdict for Man Wrongfully Imprisoned Based on False Accusations by Philadelphia Police Officer

Of Counsel attorney Robert J. Levant secured a $10 million verdict for a man who spent nearly four years in jail after a Philadelphia police officer falsely accused him of firing a gun at him. The verdict, handed down by Philadelphia jurors in May 2018, is reportedly the largest-ever civil verdict for police misconduct in Philadelphia.

Khanefah Boozer and several friends were returning from a night out at a bar on Jan. 22, 2011, when one of his friends fired a handgun several times in the air. After witnessing the incident, Boozer chastised his friend for firing the gun, said goodbye to his friends, and drove away. Moments later, he was stopped by police who heard the gunshots while they were investigating a burglary nearby.

Although Boozer explained that it was his friend who had fired the gun, the investigating officers did not find any weapons on his friends and let them go without questioning. Boozer was later arrested for aggravated assault as a felony of the first degree, violations of the Uniform Firearms Act, and related offenses after Officer Ryan Waltman falsely claimed that Boozer had fired a gun at him.

Police recovered no gun, found no forensic evidence to support the allegation that Waltman had been shot at, and developed no corroborating evidence that Boozer possessed or fired a gun that night. But as a result of Waltman’s false accusation, which other officers attempted to corroborate in various ways, Boozer was criminally charged by the Philadelphia District Attorney. His bail was set at $500,000, which he could not afford, and he remained in jail until September 2014 when he was acquitted by a jury.

At the criminal trial, Boozer’s friend who fired the gun testified to Boozer’s version of the events, notwithstanding the obvious jeopardy of doing so. He testified that he stashed the gun in the glove box of his car, which was parked on the street, when he heard police coming. His car was identified in police photos and paperwork as being at the scene during the investigation.

Boozer’s civil lawsuit included claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution and civil conspiracy.

At a news conference following the $10 million verdict, Levant said that the 12 jurors from all different backgrounds sent a very loud, strong and clear message that the citizens of Philadelphia will not tolerate police abusing their authority.