Cranston senator facing obstruction charge in car keying incident

By: - July 12, 2023 4:19 pm

Sen. Joshua Miller, a Cranston Democrat, speaks with Major Todd Patalano at his home on June 22, 2023. Miller subsequently turned himself in at the police station. (Cranston police bodycam screenshot)

A Rhode Island state senator is facing an additional criminal charge after allegedly keying a vehicle at the Garden City Center in Cranston last month.

Sen. Joshua Miller, a Cranston Democrat, now faces a charge for obstruction of a police officer in addition to misdemeanor vandalism, City Solicitor Christopher Millea said in an email Wednesday.

“The charge is a direct result of the totality of the circumstances surrounding the incident in question, and was the result of a full review and due diligence by my office and the Cranston Police Department after a lengthy review of all the police reports, video that was gathered from Garden City and elsewhere, the body, cam footage, and the witnesses,” Millea said.

Cranston senator accused of damaging SUV

The charges are expected to be filed before his July 18 arraignment at the Third District Court in Warwick.

Miller’s attorney, John MacDonald could not be reached for comment on the new charge. In a June 23 statement, MacDonald said, “there will be no comment in this matter until court proceedings are concluded.”

Miller, who was first elected to the General Assembly in 2006, was arrested last month for allegedly keying an SUV with a sticker saying “Biden sucks.”

Cranston police said a man reported that he and a passenger were returning to the SUV in the Garden City Shopping Center parking lot on June 22 at around 4 p.m. when they heard a loud scratching sound and saw a man wearing a suit jacket holding a key. 

Body-cam footage shows Miller initially denied damaging the vehicle and telling officers he felt threatened by the SUV driver.

“He called out my name and I was worried he was one of the gun nuts who stalks me at the State House,” Miller told the responding officer. 

Police went to question Miller again, this time at his home, where they said the legislator admitted he had damaged the SUV because its owner had been yelling at him and “dared him” to do it.

“I took my keys out when he started yelling at me,” Miller told officers. 

Greg Pare, spokesperson for Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, said “the Senate President does not have comment at this time, while the legal process is playing out.”

Sen. Sam Bell, a Providence Democrat, condemned Miller’s behavior on Twitter Wednesday.

“What bothers me the most is that he hasn’t apologized,” he said.  “He’s not maintaining his innocence. He basically admitted to doing it on the body cam footage. So why not apologize?  

Keying the car is bad enough, but it also matters how people act when they do something wrong.”

Joe Powers, chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Party, called on Miller to resign from the General Assembly in a statement Wednesday afternoon. 

“Whether it’s verbal attacks or, in this case, damage to personal property, Miller has shown disregard for anyone that is not aligned with his own party,” Powers said. “He is failing to represent every constituent in his district. Now that an additional charge of obstruction will be filed against Miller, he must do the right thing for his constituents.It’s Miller’s time to resign.” 

If convicted of the obstruction charge, Miller could face up to a one-year prison sentence at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston.

“However, Mr. Miller would never be looking at that sentence,” Millea said. “It is only the maximum sentence allowable by law.”

The charge also carries the penalty of a $500 fine.


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Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.