While Berlin Patch has been there for every court date in the criminal trial of Father Michael Miller, many parishioners and residents want to know why the case keeps getting continued and what goes on in the time between court dates.
A local criminal lawyer, speaking on the case on anonymity and in general terms described how the legal system makes its way to a judgment.
“First, this is a criminal case and not a civil case where people are looking for money and the two sides settle,” said the attorney. “Down the road some of the people who made the claims or their families may sue the church or the Archdiocese for damages but that is not the case here and has nothing to do with this. This is purely a criminal trial. It is to decide if he is guilty of the things that have been charged to have happened.”
The attorney said that it is common procedure for a court case to take a year or more to get to actual trial action.
“What happens is that both sides are deciding what they need and want to hear for the next court date,” he said. “Most of the time the things each side want and need are not ready. That is why the court case is continued. One side might want to have sworn testimony of a psychiatrist while the other may want more testimony from the person making the claims.
“Any time there is a case like this, well I should say almost always, the person making the claims will have to testify in court as to what happened. Some families don’t want a young person to have to testify so that could be something that is being worked on by both sides.”
The lawyer said that while it can be frustrating to not know the final verdict for over a year, there is a system in place and with the high profile that this case has taken on, it is not going away.
“Both sides may be talking about a lesser plea but I don’t see that happening here,” he said. “It may be a case of taking it down a bit or taking off some of the charges but I’m sure there will be some sort of charges and trial at the end of the this.”
Miller’ next court date is Jan 5.
The case has appeared on the docket eight times with only one actual appearance by Father Michael himself.
Miller was arrested on five felony counts of risk of injury to a minor and a misdemeanor obscenity charge and is free on $150,000 bond.
Attorney William St. John represents Miller, who is currently suspended from his church duties.
The arrest warrant for the St. Paul Church priest details allegations of an ongoing, lurid relationship between Miller and a 13-year-old boy that was conducted through facebook and text messaging.
The boy's identity was redacted from the warrant.
According to the warrant, the Berlin Police Department received a complaint from the mother of a 13-year-old boy whose family members are parishioners of the church. The woman told police that her son had become uncomfortable with the correspondence on facebook and text messages from Miller. Police confiscated two computers from Miller, but before they could arrest him, he was flown to St. Francis Hospital on July 4 by Life Star after suffering a still-unspecified medical condition.
According to the arrest warrant, the conversations started innocently enough but escalated into sexual comments quickly. The warrant states that Miller, who used an alias on facebook, asked the boy about his sexual preference. Miller told the boy he was bi-sexual in high school and was addicted to pornography. When police confiscated Miller's computers, the priest admitted to texting and talking to the boy on facebook but said that there was no actual contact.
Miller, according to the warrant, also told the boy on more than one occasion that he would like to perform sex acts on him and asked him to meet him, but the boy declined. The request to meet seems to have led to the boy to talk to his mother.