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Democrat lawmaker apologizes for vandalizing car decorated with 'Biden Sucks' sticker, ordered to pay restitution — but won't resign
Image source: YouTube screenshot

Democrat lawmaker apologizes for vandalizing car decorated with 'Biden Sucks' sticker, ordered to pay restitution — but won't resign

A Democrat Rhode Island state senator has apologized for vandalizing a car decorated with a "Biden Sucks" sticker last month and was ordered to pay restitution — but said he has no plans to resign from office.

State Sen. Joshua Miller on Tuesday changed his plea from not guilty to no contest regarding charges against him for vandalism and obstructing a police officer, WPRO-AM reported.

What's the background?

Miller was recorded on police bodycam video on the night of June 22 reportedly admitting to an officer that he vandalized a car. Thing is, earlier that day, an officer who pulled Miller over recorded him on bodycam video denying the act and calling his accuser "one of the gun nuts."

The vandalized car was decorated with a "Biden Sucks" sticker, the Rhode Island Current reported.

Cranston police told WJAR-TV the car was scratched with a key at the Garden City Shopping Center. The vehicle's owner and passenger heard a loud scratching sound and said they saw a man standing on the side of the car holding a keychain and gripping a single key while quickly walking away, police told WJAR.

The man later was identified as Miller, police noted to WJAR.

The car's passenger asked Miller if he had done it, and Miller denied it and walked away, WJAR said, citing a police report. But the victim noticed a vehicle parked close to his that was decorated with a "Re-elect Senator Josh Miller" bumper sticker, the station said, adding that the victim looked up Miller online, identified him as the suspect, and called police wanting to press charges.

Cranston police body camera footage shows Miller being pulled over in the shopping center about two hours after the victim called police, WJAR said.

In the video, the officer tells Miller he's being detained, after which Miller refers to "the maniac who yelled at me in the car next to me ... he was blocking my way, saying I scratched his car, I didn't scratch his car. I'm a state senator, I think he recognized me, I think he's one of the gun nuts. He called out my name; I never told him my name."

Miller added that he "was worried he was one of the gun nuts who stalked me at the State House ..."

Miller previously was criticized for cursing at a gun rights advocate during a 2014 rally at the state House captured on video and posted online, WPRI-TV reported, adding that Miller later apologized for the outburst.

Cranston Police video June 22 2023youtu.be

WJAR said police brought back the car passenger who identified Miller as the man who keyed it, after which Miller was allowed to leave since the alleged crime was a misdemeanor.

Police said they reviewed surveillance video showing Miller standing next to the damaged vehicle, the station reported, adding that when cops interviewed Miller at his home later Thursday, he "admitted to the damage."

In the nighttime bodycam clip, WJAR said Maj. Todd Patalano asked Miller, "We got evidence, so you tell us how you want to handle this. You keyed his car?"

“Yeah," Miller replied.

Several times Patalano asked Miller why he would key the victim's car, after which Miller said, "He was threatening me already" and that the accuser "was already screaming at me" and "because he was daring me to, basically."

Cranston Police respond to the home of Rhode Island Sen. Joshua Miller on June 22, 2023youtu.be

What else happened in court?

Miller entered a nolo contendere plea Tuesday in Kent County District Court, WPRO said, adding that it's equivalent under state law to a no contest plea.

Magistrate Judge Joseph Ippolito accepted the plea “in the interest of justice," WPRO said, adding that the judge said the charges would be “filed” for a year and would be dismissed if Miller stayed out of trouble.

The judge ordered Miller to pay an agreed-upon $2,850 to the owner of the damaged vehicle in connection with the vandalism charge and $250 to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank in connection with the obstruction charge, WPRO said.

Following court proceedings, Miller read from a prepared statement, the station said.

“I am truly sorry for my actions in this matter, and I am disappointed in my behavior and lack of judgement," Miller said, according to WPRO. "In a blink of an eye, I exhibited a lack of self-control that has impacted my reputation. For that, I only have myself to blame as I am solely responsible for what led to today’s court proceedings."

He added, "To my constituents and supporters and Senate colleagues, I apologize for my actions. Most importantly, to those directly impacted by my conduct, I offer my sincere apologies. All I can ask is that I be judged on how I have comported myself throughout my life as a husband, father, business owner, employer, and public servant," the station said.

Won't resign

At the time of the incident, Joe Powers — chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Party — in a tweet called upon Miller to resign from the General Assembly, the Current reported.

“This behavior is unbecoming of anyone holding a leadership position,” Miller wrote, according to the outlet. “State Senator Joshua Miller has proven once again the he does not have the composure required to represent every constituent in his district and must resign immediately.”

But Miller said he won't step down from any of his legislative roles “at this point," according to the Providence Journal, but he also said he wants to talk to constituents and Senate colleagues before committing to his next move.

State Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, also a Democrat, said in a statement that he sees no need to remove Miller from the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, WPRO reported.

“Sen. Miller’s actions on June 22 were deeply regrettable. He has accepted full responsibility, demonstrated sincere remorse, and made restitution,” Ruggerio wrote, according to the station. “I don’t believe that any one of us would want to be judged solely upon our worst moments."

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