Miller not guilty

Miller not guilty

October 21st, 2009 by Todd South in Local - Breaking News

Staff Photo by Angela Lewis Defense attorney Fred Hanzelik, left, and former state Sen. Jeff Miller, center, talk with an unidentified man in Bradley County Criminal Court on Wednesday morning during a recess in Sen. Miller's trial. Sen. Miller was charged with official misconduct and conspiracy to commit official misconduct.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - A jury found former state Sen. Jeff Miller not guilty on charges of official misconduct in connection with his former position as Bradley County back-tax attorney.

The jury deliberated less than three hours before reaching a verdict in a case where Mr. Miller's attorney put on no defense witnesses.

Attorney Fred Hanzelik rested on the proof after persuading Senior Judge John Kerry Blackwood to dismiss charges of conspiracy to commit official misconduct and conspiracy to commit aggravated perjury.

The remaining charge is official misconduct. Mr. Miller, the former delinquent-tax attorney for Bradley County, is accused of getting paid as much as $22,500 for tax lien searches that he did not complete.

In closing arguments, Mr. Hanzelik told jurors that Mr. Miller's duty under state law was to see that the lien searches were performed.

He said Mr. Miller trusted his secretary of nine years, April Miles, to perform the actual searches and accepted her assurances she had done the work. He said Mr. Miller had no intent to deceive the county or accept money for work not performed.

Ms. Miles testified Tuesday that she first told investigators Mr. Miller didn't know the searches weren't being done, but she later recanted. She said she had lied at first because she was afraid for her job.

Mr. Hanzelik also asked jurors to consider whether the state's official misconduct statute should apply to Mr. Miller. He said the law applies to "public officials," argued that Mr. Miller's job didn't fall under that designation.

He had made the same argument to Judge Lockwood after the prosecution case ended, when he asked that all the charges be dismissed and his client be acquitted.

Judge Lockwood dismissed the two conspiracy counts but would not rule that Mr. Miller's was not a public official.

See Thursday's Times Free Press for complete coverage.