PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A man accused of shooting at a Philadelphia police officer will receive $10 million after being wrongfully arrested and imprisoned for more than three years.
Robert Levant, who represents Khanefah Boozer, spoke with reporters with his client present on Thursday.
“I really believe that this jury verdict is about the facts in this case because they were so egregious, but I think it’s important that the conscience of our city and our nation is thinking about these matters,” Levant said. “Social media does help to share the message when these things do happen. Though, I wouldn’t connect it to Starbucks but I would certainly say that in a positive way people are conscious of the potential problems that exist in the criminal justice system if cases are not handled properly.”
“Some points I’m happy. Some points I’m nervous. I’m just happy that it’s all over,” said Boozer in an exclusive interview with CBS3.
A civil verdict was reached against a city cop who falsely testified against Boozer, 33, who maintained his innocence throughout his ordeal.
The Philadelphia native was outside with friends in January 2011 on Abbotsford Road in Germantown. Boozer says a friend took out a gun and fired a shot into the air. A nearby police officer named Ryan Waltman arrested Boozer as the shooter, claiming Boozer pointed a gun at him.
Boozer says he told detectives it was his friend who fired the shot in the air but he says Officer Waltman never investigated that claim.
Boozer went to jail for almost four years. He couldn’t post his half-a-million-dollars bail.
“In times of grief when I sat there in my cell and cried and prayed to God that I wanted to die, it always was my family who wrote me letters and was basically my support,” Boozer tells CBS3.
Boozer was released from prison in 2014 but sued Officer Waltman for his false testimony. Officer Waltman, who is still on the force, was represented by a city solicitor. Ultimately, a jury decided to pay Boozer $10 million for being wrongfully accused and imprisoned.
Boozer lost his mother and sister while sitting behind bars. He wants people not to focus on his jury award, but these words he has for those who are behind bars but shouldn’t be.
“If you are innocent and the police wrongfully arrested you keep fighting! Keep fighting and don’t ever give up!” he says.
The Philadelphia Police Department did not comment on the verdict. A spokesman for Mayor Jim Kenney said city officials are examining all options right now and plan to appeal.