Miller found guilty of lying under oath | News | The daily sun of the towns

The jury did not buy the donut’s defense.

A Marion County jury of four men and two women needed just 25 minutes of deliberation Friday to convict suspended Sumter County Commissioner Oren Miller of perjury.

Miller, the jury found, lied under oath during a criminal investigation into possible violations of the state’s open meeting laws.

The jury heard Miller’s recorded interview with investigators from October 2021 in which he tried to explain more than 40 phone calls between him and former Sumter County Commissioner Gary Search as arguments over which of them was collecting office candy. in a bakery.

Both men had originally denied under oath that any private calls took place between them, and later struggled to explain away phone records that showed otherwise.

“The truth doesn’t change,” Sasha Kidney, assistant state attorney, said during closing arguments. “And that is exactly what the defendant’s statement did. The truth of him changed several times. She clearly made the statement, and it later evolved when he was faced with evidence that was incorrect. But then he still didn’t come clean. He was going to develop the truth from him to try to get out of it”.

Acknowledging the calls would have strengthened the criminal case against Miller and Search, who were being investigated for underhanded dealings regarding official business they were only supposed to discuss in public meetings.

“Some of these are short calls, 30 seconds, 25 seconds, so maybe they were talking about donuts,” Kidney said during closing arguments. “But many others are 677 seconds, 558 seconds, you’re not talking about donuts at that point.”

Kidney broke down in detail the phone records showing how the calls matched the dates of the commission’s meetings. Under immunity granted in a plea deal, Search testified that many of the calls were in fact about county issues such as animal control facilities, storm response, impact fees and the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Miller’s attorney, Dock Blanchard, did not call any witnesses to testify on Miller’s behalf.

Miller did not take the stand in his own defense and spent time talking to Search during a break.

Blanchard told the jury that Miller did not intentionally lie to investigators, he simply could not remember the details of the phone calls.

“I think the jury was unfortunately swayed by the allegations that no charges had been filed,” Blanchard said after the verdict. “I think that was the problem.”

The state attorney’s office confirmed that Miller was offered a plea deal similar to the one Search accepted to avoid prosecution, and that Miller declined.

He now faces up to five years in prison and has been ordered to remain in custody until the sentencing hearing following a pre-sentence investigation.

This process usually takes about three weeks.

As the court clerk read the guilty verdict, Miller stood rigid and emotionless, hands behind his back as his right thumb slid repeatedly across his left palm.

His wife, Angie Fox, sat forward, leaning against the back of the chair across from her, remaining motionless. She placed her right hand on her head when the judge announced that her husband would be immediately detained.

Miller was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom.

The timing was a stark mark of punctuation in the attacks Miller and Search have launched at the media for publicizing their misdeeds.

Jennifer Rey, a Sumter County attorney, testified that she was first alerted to a possible violation of the open meetings law after a public records request from the Daily Sun in January.

Before leaving office, both Miller and Search railed at public meetings about the Daily Sun’s reporting and attacked their journalists in emails obtained through public records requests.

At Friday’s trial, Blanchard tried to present Daily Sun coverage of Monday’s public jury selection to support a motion that the jury had been tainted.

It was flatly ruled out.

“This is a newspaper, not a motion,” said Judge Anthony Tatti, who also admonished Miller for returning to the courtroom late after lunch. “I frankly anticipated that there would be an article in The Villages Daily Sun on or after jury selection. I read the article. I specifically told the jury not to review that material (and any other news coverage of the trial). When they come in, I’ll ask if any of them have seen or heard anything about the case during the recess period. I suspect that they are going to say ‘no’ to me”.

Specialty editor Keith Pearlman can be contacted at 352-753-1119, ext. 5347, or [email protected]

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