Rep. Justin Miller, former campaign manager for Democrat Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams—and McAdams' former associate deputy mayor until he was let go in October 2014—pleaded guilty to communication fraud in 3rd District Court this morning, stemming from his theft of almost $25,000 of McAdams' campaign funds.
Miller also resigned from his seat in the Legislature, to which he was just elected in 2014, representing House District 40.
Miller said he was “accepting responsibility” for his criminal action—despite the fact that, until now, he denied the claims against him. According to a May 21 City Weekly cover story titled "Fast Bucks," Miller actually sought an apology from McAdams for accusing him of embezzling funds, telling reporter Stephen Dark,"I don't feel like I did anything."
Miller today said he'd still be cooperating with an “ongoing federal investigation into Salt Lake County,” likely tied to his notice of claim that he filed in December 2014 against the county. In it, he alleged he'd been fired at Salt Lake County for being a whistleblower.
But District Attorney Sim Gill doesn't believe the county is under federal investigation. Gill subsequently sent a statement saying, "I have personally spoken with the United States Attorney’s Office and the FBI. I have offered to make the County available to any inquiries, but I have received no such requests. Based on my conversations with those agencies, Mr. Miller’s claim is incorrect, and I have no reason to believe there is an investigation of Salt Lake County."
So does Miller know something Gill doesn't? Miller's credibility is not the greatest right now and this isn't his first brush with the law. The "Fast Bucks" cover story also revealed Miller pleaded guilty to a retail theft class B misdemeanor on May 15, 2006. In lieu of a fine, Judge John Baxter allowed Miller to do community service, which Miller served at the Salt Lake County Democratic Party. The charge was dismissed a year later as part of a plea in abeyance—essentially, an admission of guilt given in exchange for, after a probationary period, the charge being dropped.
He may get off with a similar hand-slapping this time around. Even though Miller faces a possible maximum sentence of one to 15 years in prison, if he makes restitution before his Dec. 18 sentencing and successfully completes the terms of probation afterward, Miller's charges and sentence may be greatly reduced.
So maybe don't count Miller out of politics (after the dust settles anyway), and perhaps there's something to the rumor that feds have an interest in the goings-on at the county. Time will tell.
In the meantime, though, let the Democrats enjoy their day.