Chainers sentenced to one year in jailPublished 11:00am Friday, July 22, 2011
Judge says he’s outraged by Millers’ incomprehensible actions
Brian Miller and Charity Miller, the Dexter couple who chained their 5-year-old son to his crib, have been sentenced to one year in jail and three years supervised probation.
The sentence was issued by Judge Donald Rysavy around 10:30 a.m. Friday morning, one day after Judge Fred Wellmann ruled the Millers can keep their parental rights.
The couple was taken into custody immediately after sentencing. Brian, 33, was awarded three days of credit for time served; Charity, 26, was awarded four days. Rysavy also ordered that the Millers have no contact with their children unless authorized by the court.
The Millers were sentenced on one count each of gross misdemeanor false imprisonment and one count each of malicious punishment. Minnesota statute allows a maximum punishment of one year in jail for each charge.
Five other charges — including malicious punishment, false imprisonment, endangerment and two counts of neglect — were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
The Millers are accused of chaining one of their sons to his crib from bedtime until morning every night. They reportedly made their two sons, ages 5 and 8, stay in their bedrooms most of the time and weren’t providing sufficient food or bathroom access for the boys. The 5-year-old weighed less than 30 pounds when he and his brother were placed with a foster family in April.
“My personal observation is, that in 15 plus years as a judge, this is one of about two or three cases where I’ve seen so much potential and actual damage to a child, in this case two children,” Rysavy said during the sentencing hearing. “Mother and father … are not supposed to be jailers and torturers. A home is supposed to be that — not a concentration camp.”
Rysavy called the Millers’ actions incomprehensible and said he was outraged.
Mower County Attorney Kristen Nelsen commended the school system and local teachers for making their concerns about the Miller boys known.
“There is relief there is some punishment … but the damage has still been done,” Nelsen said after the sentencing. “The behavior was disgusting.”
Nelsen said she would have liked the Millers to be sentenced more harshly with two years in jail, which is the maximum punishment for the charges against them.
“For the next 365 days, these kids will know where their parents are and that they (the kids) are safe,” she said.
In her closing statement Friday morning, Assistant Mower County Attorney Christa Van Gundy said one year in jail, with freedom of movement and access to a bed and bathroom, “does not compare to what (the Millers) did to their own children.”
Mower County Sheriff’s Detective Steve Sandvik and Todd Schoonover, who speaks on behalf of the boys, both testified at Friday’s hearing, reiterating much of what was said during the Millers’ four-day termination of parental rights trial in June.
“(The 8-year-old boy) is thriving in the foster home,” Schoonover said. “I’ve never seen a kid who was honestly happy his parents were in jail until I met him and his brother.”
Sandvik demonstrated how the chain was anchored to the boy’s crib, using the actual chain found in the Millers’ home as a reference.
Sandvik later led Brian out of the courtroom in handcuffs. As the couple was taken into custody, Brian had a straight face and Charity cried.
“I’m very, very sorry for what I did,” Brian said before Rysavy announced the sentence. “The decision I made … is wrong.”
Charity also spoke to the court, saying she wants to be a better mother to her sons.
“I want to say how sorry I am to my boys,” she said, crying. “I want a chance to be … the mom that protects them. I failed the first time but I need a second chance.”
The children will remain in protective custody while their parents are in jail, according to Nelsen.
Rysavy said the Millers may be released with court authorization for hearings related to the reunification of their family.