DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A convicted felon was on the run for months until he was caught with a gun during a traffic stop. In a jailhouse interview, the felon told Channel 2's Mark Winne a judge’s decision about money gave him an opportunity to skip his jail sentence.
Keith Miller pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for a shooting. But he told Winne that Judge Asha Jackson’s decision to give him more than a week to come up with cash for the victim wasn't a wise choice.
"Just being (that) they gave me that opportunity. That’s a lot of temptation. Is it not?," Miller said.
A staff member in Jackson's DeKalb County office says judges cannot comment on the case because it is a pending matter. But Winne dug for days in records, interviewed the suspect himself, and got a copy of the dashboard video to get answers about the case.
A Greene County sheriff's captain says a deputy pulled over a Nissan on Interstate 20 after a lookout from a neighboring county. But he questions whether Jackson was looking out for public safety.
Patrick Paquette, the deputy who pulled over the car, said there was a gun in the glove compartment, and he was angry to find out front-seat passenger Miller should've been in prison.
Records show on Aug. 20, 2012, Miller plead guilty in DeKalb County to aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
The state Department of Corrections website shows a list of past charges and indicates three previous stays in jail.
But records suggest a judge gave him until Aug. 31, roughly 11 days to surrender, and said if Miller could come up with $6,000 restitution, she might knock a couple years off his sentence.
"It was definitely self-defense," Miller said.
The sentence sheet appears to be signed by Jackson. In jail, Miller still maintained he’s not guilty of aggravated assault. When Winne asked Miller if he surrendered like he was supposed to, Miller replied “No, because I didn’t – at the end of the day when it came to 11 days, I think I might’ve had $300, so I was like, why go down there without (any) money?”
Capt. Ron Thurmond says after the arrest last week, Miller kicked out a patrol car window. Thurmond said Miller climbed into the front seat where there was a shotgun and AR-15.
“I really needed some air,” Miller said.
“Temptation kind of hit me a little, so I hopped in the driver seat. I didn’t really make it in there,” Miller said.
Miller suggested he didn’t see the guns in the front seat.
Legal analyst Manny Arora says Jackson is no pushover and Channel 2 should not be too quick to criticize the judge who had access to more information than the public.
He says, for instance, she may have been appropriately trying to get the most help she could for the victim's medical bills.