Defense attorney Brian Degnan admitted in court today that he was surprised to learn less than an hour before his client was scheduled to be sentenced on a burglary charge, that the client didn't understand one of Judge Robert Noonan's questions when he entered a guilty plea July 15.
The question, one asked of every defendant about to enter a guilty plea: "Have you consumed any drugs or alcohol today?"
Ricky L. Miller said he had not, but today, Miller told Degnan that he was actually on prescribed painkillers when he entered his guilty plea and didn't understand what he was doing.
Miller was an inmate in the Genesee County Jail on July 15 and any medication he received would have been administered by jail staff.
The drugs supposedly taken by Miller on July 15 where Neurontin and Tramadol.
Degnan asked for an adjournment of the scheduled sentencing to give him time to research the veracity of his client's claim and whether the allegedly prescribed painkillers could alter his judgment.
"We should not be adjourning a sentencing every time a defendant has a change of heart," said District Attorney Lawrence Friedman.
Friedman characterized Miller's new statements as "an incredible claim that he lied under oath about being on drugs."
Degnan tried to argue that perhaps his client didn't understand the question because he only has an eighth-grade education, but Noonan wasn't buying it.
When Noonan asked if Miller had taken the prescribed medications today, Miller said he had.
"So he has enough of an education to understand what I'm asking him while on drugs today, but not when he entered his guilty plea?" Noonan asked.
He ordered a short recess so Friedman could contact the jail and get information on what drugs Miller may have consumed the day he entered his guilty plea.
About 30 minutes later, Miller's case was recalled and Friedman informed Noonan that on July 15, Miller had not yet been prescribed Neurontin, and about two weeks before the hearing, Miller's dosage of Tramadol had been reduced.
"He was taking it for knee pain," Friedman said. "I'm told it's no more powerful than Motrin tablets and it's not a controlled substance."
Noonan denied Degnan's motion for an adjournment and proceeded with sentencing.
On one count of burglary, 2nd, Miller was given five years in prison, and on one count of possession of a forged instrument, Miller was given three and a half to seven years in prison, to be served concurrently.
"Sir, you have, for a 29-year-old man, you have a horrible record," Noonan said. "You don't seem to have any respect for anybody's else's property. It's important that you be removed from society for a long period of time."