Berlin Priest Sentenced to Prison for Child Porn, Chats
August 15, 2013
|Rev. Michael Miller will spend five years in prison after he admitted in Superior Court Thursday that he had child pornography on his computer and chatted about sex on the Internet with underage boys. (Courtesy of Berlin Police Department / May 2, 2013)|
Speaking on behalf of her son, a woman identified only as Pat barely looked up at her former priest as she told the court how he had had repeated sexually explicit conversations with the teenager.
Calling the Rev. Michael Miller a "sexual predator," Pat stared intently at the statement in front of her as she described how her son had been betrayed by the man he considered a friend, mentor and confidant.
"He has shattered my son's trust, demoralized his spirit and wounded his self-esteem," she said.
Miller stood silent, hands clasped behind his back, throughout his sentencing Thursday in Superior Court in New Britain before Judge Hillary Strackbein. Miller, 43, pleaded guilty in May to possession of child pornography, obscenity and three counts of risk of injury to a minor.
He was sentenced Thursday to a prison term of 20 years, suspended after five, followed by 20 years of probation. Miller must also register as a sex offender.
Pat said her son often chatted with "Father Mike" on Facebook, or stopped by the church or the rectory to speak with him. She said he confided in Miller and grew emotional as she spoke about how she herself had spoken to Miller about the impact an illness in the family may have been having on her son.
"Father Mike assured me that he would be keeping a watchful eye on my son," she said.
She glanced up at Miller briefly during her statement as she addressed him directly. In the health care field, she said, there is a code of ethics: Do no harm.
"What code of ethics do you practice, Michael Miller?" she asked.
Miller was a pastor at St. Paul Roman Catholic Church in Berlin, and his victims were church members, students at the church's school, or both, according to warrants.
He was suspended from public ministry as soon as police told the church about the allegations, said Maria Zone, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
Miller will never function as a priest again, said Zone.
No one spoke on Miller's behalf at the sentencing except for his lawyer, William St. John. Strackbein noted that some letters of support for Miller had been submitted to the court, which only made his crimes "all the more disturbing" for betraying the trust of people who would still support him.
Miller addressed the court briefly. He apologized repeatedly and said he accepts responsibility for all of his actions.
"I know that I will spend the rest of my life trying to make this up," he said.
According to court documents, Miller had inappropriate Facebook chats with seven teens. He had made comments about one boy being in puberty and about how Miller is "addicted to porn" and pleasures himself, a warrant for his arrest states. Miller also invited the boy to come over and watch a "dirty movie" so they could "have some fun" and wrote in "extreme detail" about sex acts he would perform on the boy, police say.
Investigators also learned he had emailed videos of an unknown person masturbating to a 16-year-old boy, from a church computer, according to prosecutor Christian Watson and court documents.
An examination of computers used by Miller, conducted at the New Britain Police Department, also turned up five pornographic videos of children, including one with boys ages 6 to 10 performing sex acts on each other and another involving a younger girl and an adult.
At the sentencing, Watson said the only silver lining is that no physical abuse took place.