Miller ordered to pay $2,850 for keying SUV last month
Senator pleads no contest to charges of vandalism and obstructing an officer
Sen. Josh Miller reads from a prepared statement outside the 3rd District Courthouse in Warwick Tuesday after the Cranston Democrat pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of vandalism and obstructing a police officer. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
WARWICK — Sen. Joshua Miller, a Cranston Democrat, pleaded no contest Tuesday to keying an SUV with a “Biden Sucks” sticker at Garden City Center in Cranston last month.
Miller, 69, appeared in Warwick District Court to formally accept a deal with prosecutors regarding misdemeanor charges of vandalism and obstructing a police officer. Miller’s plea does not mean he is guilty of the crime, just that the prosecution has substantial evidence against him.
As part of the deal, Miller was ordered to pay restitution $2,850 to the owner of the SUV and to donate $250 to the Rhode Island Food Community Bank and pay $186.75 in court fees.
The charges will remain on Miller’s record for a year and will be expunged afterward if he stays out of trouble with the law.
Cranston City Solicitor Chris Millea said in an interview outside the courthouse the sentence given to Miller was appropriate for any first-time offender.
“There was no favoritism,” Millea said. “There’s zero politics involved in this. If you were 18 years or 69 on a misdemeanor first offense… 99.9% of the time, people are given the chance to get a clean record.”
In a statement sent about 90 minutes after the arraignment ended Tuesday morning, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio called Miller’s actions “deeply regrettable.”
“I don’t believe that any one of us would want to be judged solely upon our worst moments,” Ruggerio said. “I choose to look at the whole of Sen. Miller’s public service, including the countless hours he has spent working to make our state a better place to live and work. Like all of us who hold elected office, Sen. Miller will ultimately answer to his constituents.”
In a press conference after entering his plea, Miller said he is “truly sorry” for his actions. He did not apologize to Cranston police regarding the obstruction charge.
“In the blink of an eye, I exhibited a lack of self-control that has impacted my reputation,” he said. “For that I only have myself to blame as I am solely responsible for what led to today’s court proceedings.”
Miller, who was elected to the Rhode Island Senate in 2006, was arrested on June 22 for keying the side of an SUV with a sticker that said “Biden sucks.” Police initially could not locate Miller, who was inside the shopping center at the time of their arrival.
After police stopped Miller as he was leaving the parking lot, the senator denied damaging the SUV and told officers he felt threatened by the 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 later that evening, this time at his home, where the senator 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.
Millea said no such altercation ever happened, something he said the police department had to fully investigate since threatening a public official is a felony.
“But it’s over and done with and the colonel will be extremely happy,” said Millea, referring to Cranston Police Chief Michael J. Winquist.
The Cranston Democrat said his next steps following his plea are to talk to his constituents and General Assembly colleagues on his future. As for now, Miller said he does not plan to step down from any of his committee assignments in the Senate.
Miller serves as chair of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee and is a member of the Environment and Agriculture Committee. He is also the Senate Democratic Policy Chairman.
Ruggerio called Miller “a dedicated and passionate public servant.”
“As the longtime Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services, he has helped navigate some of the most complex areas of government, enacting legislation that greatly improves access to health care, addresses the opioid overdose crisis, and provides a robust social services safety net,” Ruggerio added. “He consistently has been a powerful and effective advocate for the least fortunate in our society.”
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