WARWICK, R.I. — The state senator who keyed a man’s car at a Cranston shopping center last month and was later accused of lying to police admitted to the charges against him Tuesday, also apologizing to the victim, his constituents and Senate colleagues.
“I am truly sorry for my actions in this matter and I am disappointed in my behavior and lack of judgment,” Senator Josh Miller, a Cranston Democrat, told reporters outside Third District Court in Warwick. “In a blink of an eye, I exhibited a lack of self-control that has impacted my reputation. For that, I only have myself to blame as I am solely responsible for what led to today’s court proceedings.”
“All I can ask is that I be judged on how I have comported myself throughout my life as a husband, father, business owner, employer and public servant,” Miller added.
Inside the courtroom at his arraignment, Miller pleaded nolo contendere, or no contest, to two misdemeanor charges of vandalism and obstruction of a police officer.
The obstruction charge had been added to the case after Cranston’s city solicitor determined Miller’s explanation of the incident — that the victim yelled at him and he felt threatened — was not true.
Miller, 69, was given a one-year filing, meaning the case will be expunged from his record if he does not commit any crimes for the next year. He was ordered to pay restitution to the victim in the amount of $2,850, plus a $250 donation to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.
Christopher Millea, the Cranston city solicitor, said the sentence was appropriate because Miller is a first-time offender.
“Mr. Miller was treated no different than anybody else by the city of Cranston,” Millea, a former state representative, said after the hearing. “There’s zero politics involved in this. There’s zero favoritism.”
Flanked by his attorney John MacDonald and local public relations pro Bill Fischer, Miller read his statement from a piece of paper and did not answer specific questions about the case.
“I have no response to that,” Miller told a Globe reporter when asked why he keyed the car. He said he has never keyed a vehicle before.
He did not directly apologize to the Cranston police.
Miller, a longtime senator who has represented parts of Cranston and Providence for 16 years, said he has no immediate plans to resign, though he said he would talk about it with his constituents and Senate colleagues.
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio stood by Miller in a statement Tuesday, calling Miller’s actions “deeply regrettable” but defending him as a “dedicated and passionate public servant.”
“I don’t believe that any one of us would want to be judged solely upon our worst moments,” Ruggerio said. “Because of his long record of service, because he has taken responsibility for his actions, and because the events of that day had nothing to do with his responsibilities in the Senate or his position as a state senator, we are putting this incident behind us and moving forward.”
“Like all of us who hold elected office, Sen. Miller will ultimately answer to his constituents,” Ruggerio added.
The vehicle at the center of the case had a bumper sticker that said “Biden sucks,” and was being driven by the son of the car’s owner, a Cranston resident.
Miller, who was parked next to the car at Garden City on a Thursday afternoon last month, was accused of scratching the side of the Nissan with his keys.
Police said they initially couldn’t locate Miller at the shopping center after the victim reported the incident to police. When they pulled him over later, he denied keying the car.
“Is it the maniac who yelled at me in the car next to me?” Miller said in body-worn camera video released by police. “I didn’t scratch his car. I’m a state senator, I think he recognized me, I think he’s one of the gun nuts.”
Later that night at his home, body camera video shows Miller acknowledged to police that he keyed the car, but said he was being threatened.
“Why would you key his car?” Major Todd Patalano asked the senator in the video.
“He was already threatening me,” Miller said. “As soon as I opened my door, he said, ‘Hey Miller, what are you going to do?’”
Millea, the city solicitor, said that altercation never happened.