Judge Turns Down Pleading Man’s Request, but Offers Another Solution

By Carson Eschen

SANTA BARBARA, CA – A man in Santa Barbara County Superior Court this past week emotionally pleaded with a judge to ease the restrictions of the criminal protective order issued against him, and complained that the jail had failed to return his HIV medication.

Brandon Michael Miller is facing charges of allegedly preparing false evidence, a felony, in a case from 2018, as well as a case of misdemeanor domestic violence from November. He also faces two more misdemeanor charges, violating a protective order and battery against a spouse, from this October.

In the hearing, Deputy Public Defender Mark Owens requested a modification to the protective order, downgrading it from a no-contact order to a peaceful contact order, simply prohibiting Miller from molesting, threatening, harassing, or annoying the alleged victim.

Owens explained that the stricter protective order had prevented Owens from returning to the home that he and his wife shared, and as a result caused Owens to be homeless for nearly a year.

The modification would allow Miller to be able to sleep in his own bed and shower. He also noted that Miller was already allowed some contact with the alleged victim, since they worked together.

Owens also noted that Miller was attending counseling and had successfully completed multiple programs, stating that Miller was doing “remarkably well” in the previous months.

Deputy District Attorney Dalia Granados opposed the modification, pointing to Miller’s two prior domestic violence convictions back in 2001 and 2012 against different victims.

Judge Brian Hill paused for a few minutes to consider the case. He asked whether Miller was employed.

Miller stated that he was part of a program that cleaned up the Santa Barbara harbor, and had been offered a job by the City of Santa Barbara once he was off of probation.

He then expressed appreciation that the judge had forced him to take programs a year prior, saying that they changed his life and gave him the tools to stay on track.

However, he also explained that he had been living outside a mechanic’s shop, without a blanket. In spite of these challenges, he still went to work and class.

Although Judge Hill noted that no one had been injured in the “tussle” between Miller and the alleged victim and he didn’t know who was right or wrong, he said that putting them back in the same home together only two and a half weeks after the fight was a bit risky.

Miller responded that the risks that the court was seeing were “from his past” and he was nothing like his past.

His voice started to break as he then proceeded to describe the struggles that he was facing in the wake of the court proceedings. He said that he had been unable to get his HIV medication back from the jail, and had gone nine days without taking it.

Miller stated that he was at a point of “spiritual warfare.” He said he had found God, but staying out on the streets alone, cold, scared, and without his meds was not a good fit.

PD Owens reiterated Miller’s point that his living situation made maintaining the progress that he had made and fulfilling the court’s conditions much more difficult.

Judge Hill refused to modify the order, but recommended that Miller should plead guilty or no contest to at least some of the charges, which would allow him to attach terms and conditions to Miller’s release.

According to Hill, these terms would incentivize Miller to uphold any potential modification to the protective order, in addition to any other terms. However, he also noted that DDA Granados had spoken with the victim and both had agreed that the most recent charges were bad charges.

Owens ultimately asked to continue the case one week, to try and minimize the amount of time that Miller would have to continue living on the street, while also allowing him and Granados to work out a deal. It would also allow the victim to attend court and give her input. Judge Hill agreed.

About The Author

Carson Eschen is a fourth year Political Science and Philosophy double major at UC Santa Barbara. He plans on becoming a lawyer.

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