OKEECHOBEE — More than two years after his arrest, former middle school teacher, Richard Shane Miller entered a plea of no contest to lewd and lascivious battery on Friday, Dec. 18. Judge Michael Heisey sentenced him to 12 years in prison followed by three years sexual offender probation for the crime committed against one of Miller’s former students, who was only 14 at the time.
Miller was arrested in November of 2018 after a friend of the victim reported what was going on to the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office. According to the victim, Miller had been her teacher the previous school year at Osceola Middle School, but their relationship began during the 2018/2019 school year when he began teaching at the Freshman Campus and led to three separate episodes of sexual intercourse between the teacher and his former student.
During the interview investigating detective DeMarcus Dixon held with the victim, a SnapChat voice call took place between Miller and his former student. During the conversation, the girl expressed concern about pregnancy, and the teacher did not deny the sexual encounter but instead gave reasons why she could not be pregnant.
During the phone conversation, deputies knocked on Mr. Miller’s door and arrested him. He was charged with three counts of lewd and lascivious battery, victim over 12 but under 18. Later, three additional charges of lewd and lascivious battery and one charge of sexual battery on a child/familial/custodial/authority was added, but as part of the plea agreement, all charges were dropped except one of the lewd and lascivious battery charges.
Three people spoke on behalf of Miller, his father, who said this situation was completely out of character for his son and that he was always a hard worker. His brother, who said he drove 720 miles to be in court because he believed his brother was worth it. “Mistakes happen, but you support your family,” he said. Miller’s cousin was also in court to support him. He told the court he and the rest of the family would be willing to stand behind Miller in all ways if the judge would be willing to place him on probation.
Miller was given the opportunity to give an allocution, and he chose to do so. He said he believed it was in his best interest to accept a plea, because he did not believe he would get a fair trial. He claimed his wife would have given him an alibi but did not show up to testify. He spoke for several minutes about the reasons why he did the things he was accused of. He said his wife often left him alone with the children for days and he was working a full-time job and going to school. His life was falling apart. He turned to his student for comfort. “I was hurting and I looked to ‘my student’ to lean on, and she did me as well. We turned to one another to talk, to alleviate stress. We looked to each other for emotional support. I took advantage of the situation for my own self-centered sorrows. My mistake was a serious lack of judgment, a mistake I will never make again,” he said. He went on to complain that he felt the sheriff’s deputies were coercing his wife into not testifying, and his wife actually ended up in a relationship with one of the deputies.
Assistant State Attorney Ashley Albright asked Miller what any of the things in his speech had to do with the fact that he voluntarily groomed and then had sex with a 14-year-old girl, a young child. Miller told him he felt that Albright tried to pressure him into a deal because he knew his wife was not going to testify.
“Would it surprise you to know that I would love to have taken this case to trial? This is a very strong case. He went on to ask if he denied that it was his voice on the recording heard in the courtroom discussing having sex with the child, and Miller did not deny it was his voice. Miller explained he wanted his wife to be an alibi for some of the times he was accused of having sex with the girl. “So how many times did you have sex with her?” asked Albright. “I don’t know how to answer this, because I don’t know,” Miller said.
When Judge Heisey handed down the sentence, he said, “This was not a mistake. This was a conscious decision you made.”
Miller has already served two years, and this time will count toward the 12 year sentence.