A 40-year-old Midway man went on trial Tuesday for a litany of felony charges stemming from three different cases. Joshua Michael Miller faced charges of commercial burglary, theft of property, obstruction of governmental operations, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of methamphetamine, suboxone and marijuana.
Following less than four hours of testimony, the jury found Miller guilty of possession of meth, marijuana and suboxone. They also found him guilty of commercial burglary, theft of property and obstruction of governmental operations. The jury found Miller innocent of one charge of possession of meth.
After hearing from the attorneys regarding sentencing, the jury deliberated for approximately 50 minutes before coming back and recommending an 18-year sentence. Circuit Court Judge John Putman accepted the recommendation and formally sentenced Miller to 18 years in prison.
Tuesday morning was spent picking a jury and the attorneys gave opening statement after the lunch break.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kerry Chism told the jury the case involves three separate set of charges and that it’s a simple case.
“This case isn’t about guilt or innocence. This case is about sentencing,” Chism Told the jury. “This isn’t a whodunnit.”
Chism told the jury the state would prove that Miller stole four financial aid application packets from Arkansas State University Mountain Home, that Miller had meth and suboxone on his person during a traffic stop and that Miller had marijuana in his rectum while being interviewed about the stolen files.
Miller’s defense attorney Sam Pasthing told the jury the state’s case was strong in some respects and less so in other respects.
“Sure, the state’s going to have some evidence that points to Josh. There’s going to be some that doesn’t,” Pasthing said. “There’s going to be some things they say he did that we say he didn’t.”
The first witness to testify was Mountain Home police officer Josh Evans. Evans told the jury he pulled over a vehicle for expired tags. While on the traffic stop, Evans searched Miller and testified that he found meth in Miller’s front pocket and suboxone in Miller’s wallet.
On cross examination, Pasthing only asked the officer if Miller was polite. Evans said yes, Miller was polite.
Personnel from the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory testified the items sent by law enforcement were in fact meth, marijuana and suboxone.
Next, two employees of ASUMH testified the four student financial aid packets with student’s financial records were discovered missing. They searched the office for the files and eventually started looking at surveillance videos.
They discovered Miller entered the campus not holding anything and left the campus holding something. An ASUMH police officer, Stuart Matthew Garcia, later testified Miller could be seen in the video holding the files as he left. Garcia said when he and other officers went to search Miller’s home, they found the missing files.
The officer also testified that they brought Miller to the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office for an interview. They left him alone in the interview room for a few minutes. As they watched a security monitor, they noticed Miller acting oddly and reaching for his buttocks.
Garcia told the jury he and a Baxter County investigator discovered Miller had been hiding an object containing marijuana in his rectum.
The state rested their case shortly before 4 p.m. Tuesday. The defense did not put on any witnesses and the attorneys gave closing arguments Wednesday.
Chism told the jury the state had met the burden of proof for all eight charges against Miller.
“If you’re going to be a thief, you’ve got to be a lair,” Chism said during closing. “If you’re a thief and you’re not going to lie, you’re going to be the worst thief in the world.”
Pasthing told the jury the state was right and there was enough proof to convict Miller on the drug charges. The defense attorney disagreed with the state regarding the theft, commercial burglary, paraphernalia and obstruction charges.
“You’re not sitting in judgment of Josh,” Pasthing said during his closing argument. “You’re sitting in judgment of the state and whether or not they have proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The jury spent less than two hours deliberating before coming back with seven guilty verdicts and one not guilty verdict.
Chism then asked the jury to sentence Miller to consecutive terms, meaning he would have to serve one prison sentence after the other, as opposed to concurrent sentence. Concurrent sentences run at the same time.
Following the trial, Miller was taken back to the Baxter County jail to await transport to a state prison. Miller’s legal troubles aren’t over yet.
He still faces three felony charges in a case that has yet to be adjudicated. In that case, he’s accused of residential burglary, being a felon possession of a firearm and theft of a firearm.
He was arrested on those charges while out on bond on the charges he just went to trial for. Court records indicate Miller is expected to go on trial in March of next year for the latest charges.
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