August 29, 2006

Fireworks offender Miller sentenced

Dear LAAG:

As you recall, Brian Miller took the unusual step of pleading no contest to the charges thinking that the judge's sentence would be a better deal than what the DA was offering. Apparently Millers attorney thought so too. Well they were both very wrong.

Thanks to all of you who showed up today to testify at the hearing against Miller. No one spoke on his behalf, but there were some letters written on his behalf, two from "neighbors" that apparently never lived near the rest of us, as they claimed they never saw Miller shoot off any fireworks!

Miller briefly apologized. His attorney made the comment that Miller did not intended to hurt anyone or cause this explosion. The judge agreed but did not feel that was the real issue. His attorney also argued that Lakewood was a city that allowed fireworks and so this sort of behavior (illegal fireworks use) was somehow expected or condoned. That was an interesting point and want all the "pro" fireworks people to think real hard about that at the election on Nov 7. I firmly believe that fireworks, legal or not, create an atmosphere where people are trying to outdo their neighbors’ displays. Miller trumped everyone.

I made the point that just as drug dealers are sentenced more severely than drug users, Miller should be treated accordingly as his business was selling illegal fireworks that he manufactured. I also said that Miller was a scofflaw and had had 4 years to clean up his act
but didn’t even after dozens of law enforcement "visits". How can a person like that ever reform? Finally, I said that because of Miller and others like him taxpayers had to shell out $100,000 for extra law enforcement last July, and an example needed to be made of Miller for all the future [hopeful] Lakewood prosecutions of illegal fireworks users/sellers from July 2006.

The Judge was very sympathetic toward the victims who suffered property damage, and some who had pets die or get injured in the explosion. She said that Miller threatened an entire neighborhood, not just his wife and children. She was glad to see he had been taking parenting classes.

Judge Cynthia Rayvis sentenced Miller to a total of 12 years in state prison for all counts in the complaint. Most of that runs concurrent meaning that the sentence is really 5 years. He has spent 178 days in custody but given credit for 266 days (I suspect for good behavior). He will only serve 50% of that sentence (unless he misbehaves in prison). So that means he will likely be out in 2 years. The DA was suspecting he would get 4 years and Miller was hoping for 2 but he got 5. So clearly his ploy did not work. I think he would have been better off with the DA's offer which he refused.

The Judge also ruled that Miller could not ever return to the area one mile around the blast site for any reason. He must also make full restitution to all victims with monetary damage.

There will be a restitution hearing [for those that suffered damage] on 10/30/06 at 8:30 a.m. in Norwalk Superior Court, Dept. T before Judge Cynthia Rayvis. The address is 12720 Norwalk Blvd., Norwalk, CA 90650. Department T phone number is (562) 807-7248. Victims should contact the assigned DA Shelly Dominguez, her direct dial number is 562-807-7210.

LAAG wants to thank those who stuck with this and made an effort to follow this through to the end. From those in law enforcement that I have talked to it made a huge difference in the end result. I also want to thank the Press Telegram, and all the local TV stations that made and effort to keep this case in the spotlight. It helps.

But this saga is not over. We still have the November election regarding fireworks. Also. we still have next July 4th. We
need to focus on "cost effective" enforcement for all future July 4ths. March 5th was in many ways a "9/11" for Lakewood. It was a wake up call and a clear signal that lawlessness and lax enforcement could not continue any longer. And like 9/11 the further we get from the March 5 explosion the more people will forget. LAAG will not forget. And we will not let the City Council (current or future) or the Sheriff's department forget either. Our new website will keep these and other issues in the forefront.

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