ORLANDO, Fla. — Otis Miller has been in state prison for 22 years, serving a 45-year sentence for charges related to possession of cocaine within a thousand feet of a school.
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Prior to 2019, he was just one of 80,000 inmates, serving their time and then, his life changed.
Miller was trying to hide a pack of cigarettes and was caught by an officer. Miller took off running, ignoring commands from officers.
Part of Miller’s attack was captured on a cell phone by another inmate, who had smuggled it into the prison. He could be heard commenting on the video about the frequency of attacks on inmates. The video went viral, garnering national attention.
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“I remember running, I remember stopping to ‘cuff’ up and getting sprayed with mace in the face. And then I took off again and got tackled. They put cuffs on my wrists and my ankles and started beating me… I thought I was going to die,” Miller told Investigative Anchor, Daralene Jones, who visited him, recently, at Cross Correctional Institution, where Miller is now housed.
When they caught up to him, according to an investigation by the inspector general, the officers took turns beating Miller until they broke his ribs, disfigured his face and left him unable to walk on his own.
Handheld surveillance video shows the officers took Miller to a shower, where he was berated, forced to clean himself up, but he could not stand on his own.
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As he sat for our interview at Cross City Correctional Institution, he still appeared to be in pain from those injuries.
“[I still have] back injuries still, I feel it in my ribs. Still got a lot of pain in my ribs. And it’s hard to get medical attention as a prisoner,” said Miller.
In the weeks after Miller’s beating, the Department of Corrections immediately fired four officers, and the state attorney’s office charged Ian Gretka with aggravated and malicious battery. Hunter Lingo, Joshua Petersilge and their Captain Milton Gass were charged as principles to the crime.
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But that is as far as it got.
“I knew that the charges were going to be dropped because the system is flawed, not a single officer that beat inmates or kills inmates, they always get off,” Miller told Jones.
The office of the State Attorney for the 5th Judicial Circuit released an eight-page memo providing its explanation on why charges were dropped. The case was built around Ian Gretka, who was accused of striking Miller 13 times, which is why he faced the most serious charges. Prosecutors laid out the conflicting statements from eyewitnesses, and Miller himself, who identified another officer as the one who landed those blows, and for some reason, he was never charged. Prosecutors stated, without a positive ID on Gretka, they couldn’t charge him or the three others who were only charged because they were accused of helping Gretka during the beating.
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The memo stated in part: “The video evidence itself is not clear regarding where or when Otis Miller suffered the broken rib injury and is not clear as to who is hitting or striking which portions on Mr. Millers body when there are strikes being delivered. No doctors, experts, or witnesses can definitively say when the rib injury was sustained during the interaction.
“You had a whole video tape showing what was done to him,” said Miller’s sister, Shantell Grace. Miller settled a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections for 125-thosuand dollars, and Miller told us he’s now petitioning the Florida Commission on Offender Review for early release because of ongoing medical issues related to this beating by guards four years ago.
The FCOR would not provide us with any confirmation that they’ve received an application. Instead, a spokesperson told us in a statement: Pursuant to section 14.28, Florida Statutes, and Rule 16, Rules of Executive Clemency, all information, and records received, gathered, or generated in the executive clemency process—including disclosure of the existence of a clemency application or related record—are confidential and may not be released without the express permission of the Governor. Jones asked Miller about the drug charges and what he planned to do with the handful of grams that were found on two different occasions.
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“I’m not going. I’m not going to lie. I have sold drugs before. I have in the past. But that day, that wasn’t mine. It was my co-defendants,” Miller said. Two others arrested that day on the same charges, including Miller’s brother, took plea deals. “I took a plea deal of three years. I don’t see why they would give him 45 years if we had the same charges. It’s just ludacris to me,” Anthony Miller said.
WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer told us that Miller made it worse for himself by turning down the plea deal. Miller already had points on his record - because of prior felony and misdemeanor crimes. And while he could’ve been sentenced to the minimum of five years in prison. The judge is also allowed to consider the statutory maximum for the offenses, which in this case was the 45 years.
“In any court in the state of Florida, it is known that if you turn down a plea deal, you’re going to be punished for it, why, people the court can’t function if most people asked for a trial. It would break the system in two,” Sheaffer said.
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In arguing for his early release, Miller, will also ask the commission to consider that he’s already lost his mother during his time in prison and his father’s been diagnosed with cancer.
“She died, you know, saying that took everything out of me. I didn’t even want to live. You know by daddy he been keeping together. So, I’ll pray that I’ll be able to get out in the next couple of years to be when I have faith that he’ll. He’ll make it till I get out,” Miller said.
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