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Ex-Hall corrections officer faces drug, bribery charges

Authorities say man allowed inmates to see girlfriends, purchase drugs while on work detail

POSTED: November 23, 2010 12:04 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Hall County Correctional Institution officer Eric Miller is loaded into the back of a Hall County Sheriff's Office vehicle Monday evening after being charged with violation of oath of office, bribery and sale of marijuana. Sheriff's officials say Miller admitted to taking money from inmates in exchange for allowing them to use drugs and visit with their girlfriends while on work detail.

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A former Hall County corrections officer was arrested Monday after he admitted to taking money from inmates in exchange for allowing them to use drugs and visit with girlfriends while on work detail, according to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

Eric Miller, 33, of Toccoa was terminated from his job as a corrections officer at the Hall County Recycling Center on Nov. 15 for illegal activity and failing to supervise inmates, Col. Jeff Strickland said.

“We’re charging him with violation of oath of office, bribery and sale of marijuana,” Strickland said. “He’ll be held in the Hall County Jail without bond.”

County authorities began investigating Miller after they say a bag of marijuana was found in his uniform coat pocket.

On Nov. 12, a Gainesville police officer noticed Miller was driving in the city limits around DeSota Park, an area “not consistent with his duties as a correctional officer/county employee,” according to a Nov. 15 memorandum from Correctional Institution Deputy Warden Dennis Udziniski to Warden Avery Niles.

After returning to the recycling center, Sgt. Shay Free and Kem Smith, public works project manager, searched the vehicle where the two inmates on Miller’s detail were left unattended. They found “a large sack of what appeared to be marijuana” in Miller’s county-issued jacket, according to a report from Free in Miller’s personnel file.

One of the inmates, Brandon Robinson, told investigators from the Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad that he had gotten the drugs while out working and hid them in Miller’s jacket without his knowledge, according to the memo.

Miller agreed to take a polygraph test, during which he admitted to several violations, including selling cell phones to inmates and arranging for inmates to purchase drugs and meet up with girlfriends while out on work detail, according to the memo.

“Miller had received small payments from inmates to allow this activity,” Strickland said. “This was incredibly dangerous. Allowing inmates to have contraband such as marijuana or cell phones could have led to firearms and other types of very dangerous activity.”

Miller, who had worked for the county since 2007, admitted to doing this for nearly two years of his three-year tenure, according to the memo.

In a letter to Miller dated Nov. 15, Niles recounted that Miller told him he was receiving $40 to $50 for arranging visits with inmates’ girlfriends and wives and between $20 and $40 for cell phones.

Captain Woodrow Tripp said a relative of Robinson’s, the inmate in Miller’s vehicle when the marijuana was found, wired Miller more.

“We know for a fact that in this recent transaction he seemed to total $65 in two separate money orders from a relative of an inmate,” Tripp said.

Tripp said no inmates or relatives of inmates face additional charges at this time.

“They’ve been very cooperative,” Tripp said.

Hall County Administrator Charley Nix said the county has revised its policy for corrections officers following Miller’s arrest.

The new changes require verbal contact between correctional officers and their supervisors when they leave and arrive at job sites. The supervisor will be aware of the time it took the officers and inmates to reach their destination and verify the officer’s logs, reducing the opportunity to misuse travel time between assignments.

“We have tight controls for our correctional officers, and we are proud of the work they do for us on our roads, parks and many other areas. This is an isolated instance of a rogue officer who has betrayed the trust of the county,” Nix said.



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