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Judge questions candidate's role in case

6/28/2012

By LOUIE BROGDON
The Brunswick News

Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney candidate Jonathan Miller says allegations that he tried to help a sex offender live near a church in Camden County have been exaggerated by his opponent.

But a Superior Court judge said Wednesday that Miller approached him in court about the case, and a Camden County sheriff deputy said the offender mentioned Miller's name when he was told to move away.

Incumbent District Attorney Jackie Johnson told a group of Camden County Republicans June 16 that before Miller resigned as an assistant district attorney in March, she asked him for an explanation of why convicted sex offender Larry Jerod Oats had told a Camden County sheriff deputy that Miller had told Oats he could live within 1,000 feet of a church, even though it was against state sex offender laws.

Oats became a sex offender in January after he pleaded guilty to statutory rape for having sexual relations in September 2010 with a girl who was younger than 16 when he was 21.

Instead of giving an explanation of the case, and another involving the release of an alleged stalker, Miller resigned as an assistant district attorney.

Miller said Wednesday his involvement in the Oats case has been embellished.

Miller said he first found out about Oats' case when Oats' uncle, Gary Oats, who has worked as a handy man for Miller for 20 years, told him and was concerned about his elderly father, who is Larry Oats' grandfather.

Larry Oats had been living with his grandfather, who was in his 80s and in poor health. After Larry Oats registered as a sex offender, Camden County sheriff deputies told him could not live there because the home was within 1,000 feet of a church.

Miller said he told Gary Oats he would think about the case, but he was not going to be able to get involved in it. He also said at the time he did not believe the church was operating.

"The following day, Judge (Anthony) Harrison just happened to be on the bench in Glynn County. We had a break and I approached the bench. I said, 'Judge Harrison, can I speak with you as Jonathan Miller the human being and not Jonathan Miller the ADA (assistant district attorney)?'" Miller said Wednesday.

Miller said he told Harrison the situation and "Judge Harrison said, 'Jonathan, tell his defense attorney to type up a motion and we'll look at it,'" Miller said. "Bob Crowe was his defense attorney and I made that suggestion. That was the end of it. I had no further involvement."

Harrison said Wednesday Miller did approach him.

"I was sitting on the bench in Glynn County on a criminal calendar, and he approached the bench and asked if he could speak to me as a citizen," Harrison said. "Jonathan was asking me about whether or not it was possible to modify (Larry Oats') sentence. I told him, first of all, it's improper for you to talk to me ex parte (without the other party present), and you can't represent him."

When Camden County deputies checked on Larry Oats and told him he had to move, Larry Oats first told them a judge had said it was OK for him to be there, and then said Miller said he had permission, according to Camden Sheriff Deputy Capt. Harriett Sirmon.

Miller denies telling Larry Oats he was allowed to live where he did, and said he had no further involvement in the case after the day in court with Harrison.

"(Assistant District Attorney) Rocky Bridges called me yelling about this. I didn't have anything to do with it (telling Larry Oats where he could live)," Miller said.

Miller claims Johnson is using the case as political fodder for the July 31 Republican primary.

"If (Larry Oats) was the incredible danger that she's making him out to be, why did she let him plead down to statutory rape and get 15 (years), to serve one, which allowed him to get out of jail on the same day that he pled guilty?" Miller said. Larry Oats was released by having time he spent in jail waiting for a trial counted toward his sentence.

Larry Oats had been originally indicted by a Camden County grand jury in May 2011 on two counts of child molestation, one count of sexual battery, one count of statutory rape and one count of enticing a child for indecent purposes.

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