FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - The trial has begun for a former deputy who has been accused of getting too rough with a student in 2019.
Following jury selection, the trial of former Broward Sheriff’s Office school resource officer Willard Miller began Tuesday.
Just after noon, the defense delivered its opening statement.
“You’re gonna see that in response he doesn’t get physical with her, doesn’t throw handcuffs on her. He turns, and, in the testimony, you’re going to hear is that he said, ‘Did you just kick me?’ and she said, ‘Yeah, and I’ll [expletive] get ya gun,'” said attorney Jeremy Kroll.
The teen was a student at Cross Creek School in Pompano Beach. At the time of the incident, she was in the time-out room when she kicked the back of the deputy’s leg. She took the stand Tuesday.
“He grabbed me by the neck,” said victim Summer Smith in court.
“And can you explain to the jurors demonstrating how he grabbed you?” asked prosecutor Lindsey Carrier.
“He grabbed me from the back of my neck and the front,” responded Smith.
Miller, according to defense attorneys, was attempting to get a vape pen from Smith, who they said, was uncooperative. The encounter was caught on the school’s surveillance system.
They also said the deputy feared, after he was kicked in the back of the leg, he would be kicked for a second time, so he decided to quickly detain her.
“What you’re gonna hear, in this case, is his intent is I’m gonna get her down on the floor in a fluid way,” said Kroll. “I’m going to put her down in the floor so that she can’t kick me, so she can’t hurt me, and I’m either gonna get her to acknowledge she’s going to stop this and she’s going to correct her behavior, or I’m gonna arrest her, and the second she goes down on the floor, her response to him is, ‘When I get up, I’m getting your gun.'”
Defense attorneys argue that the teen was known to leave school and to have a vape pen on campus.
Smith said she was angry at the time and remembers tapping Miller’s leg, the school resource officer, but said it wasn’t a kick.
The two exchanged words before Miller grabbed her.
“I think it was the purpose of making his knee buckle,” said Smith.
“Making his knee buckle?” Asked Carrier.
“Yeah,” Smith responded.
Kroll said when the surveillance video is slowed down, it painted a different picture.
“Her foot gets caught on the chair at first, and so as he’s moving her, instead of being fluid and the expectation being that her body is going to come down here, all of a sudden, he gets tension to that movement,” said Kroll. “He starts to get top heavy. Her foot comes up and hits his leg, and as it happens, you’re gonna see him stumble, and then voluntarily, his left hand goes out from underneath.”
However, prosecutors said, Smith’s hands were in her pocket the whole time, that Miller should have deescalated the situation and was the aggressor.
“The defendant had a duty as an SRO at a school to handle these students with much more care and concern,” said Carrier. “He had no business touching her. They had no business interrogating her, putting her in the back of a police car. He had no business escalating in this time-out room what should have been a de-escalation. He had no right to do it. What we’re asking here is to not let him hide behind the badge. I’m asking you to not find him not guilty simply because he’s a law enforcement officer who thinks he can do what he wants. I’m asking you to find him guilty because he committed a crime.”
Miller was fired a year after the incident following an Internal Affairs investigation.
It is expected that the former deputy will take the stand.
He is charged with child abuse, a third-degree felony.
The trial was supposed to last one day, but it appears it will go for one more day.
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