Former Rep. Justin Miller gets 18 months probation, community service for fraud charge

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Former Rep. Justin Miller has been sentenced to serve 18 months probation and 250 hours of community service for stealing thousands from the campaign accounts of Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.

Miller, D-Millcreek, complied with the terms of a plea deal which got him a reduction in offense by paying more than $14,000 in restitution on Monday. He was accused of stealing about $25,000 from McAdams' re-election campaign. Prior to being elected to the Utah State Legislature, Miller was McAdams' campaign manager.

Miller pleaded guilty in October to second-degree felony communications fraud and resigned from office. By paying the restitution, it drops to a third-degree felony and if he successfully completes probation, it could become a class A misdemeanor on his record.

"I feel bad for what happened and regret doing it and take full responsibility," Miller told reporters as he left court on Monday. "I think what the court did today was fair."

Mayor McAdams did not show up to court, but his wife (and campaign treasurer) Julie McAdams did. She accused Miller of dragging her family through the mud for months as the investigation played out, leveling counter accusations of corruption against the mayor. It got so bad, she told the judge, they considered getting out of politics.

"There have been times this past year when I have asked Ben to seriously consider whether it's worth it," she said, urging the judge to give Miller some jail time.

Julie McAdams, the wife of Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, speaks in court as Justin Miller (right) and his attorney, Steven Shapiro, listen. (FOX 13 News)

Julie McAdams, the wife of Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, speaks in court as Justin Miller (right) and his attorney, Steven Shapiro, listen. (FOX 13 News)

After McAdams went public with his accusations against Miller, the state representative accused the mayor of questionable government contracts with a public affairs firm. The FBI investigated Miller's claims, and told FOX 13 it did not find anything.

McAdams said a forensic accountant they hired found around $80,000 missing from their campaign accounts. Miller was only sentenced Monday for the money he admitted to taking. In court, prosecutors suggested they may open another criminal investigation.

"If we come up with additional criminal activity," deputy Davis County Attorney Steve Major said. "There's some other money that was taken or embezzled, we are free to file additional charges in this matter."

Miller told FOX 13 he did not anticipate any other criminal charges.

"I will certainly cooperate with any ongoing investigations, like I have done so far," he said.

Former Rep. Justin Miller, D-Millcreek, speaks at his sentencing on a felony fraud charge. (FOX 13 News)

Former Rep. Justin Miller, D-Millcreek, speaks at his sentencing on a felony fraud charge. (FOX 13 News)

The Salt Lake County Mayor declined to comment on Monday, but in a statement issued through his office, Julie McAdams expressed disappointment that Miller did not accept more responsibility.

"We were hoping Justin would accept responsibility for the full scope of his embezzlement, spanning nearly two years, under a global settlement, as is common," she wrote. "We are disappointed that he was not willing to do so.  As it relates to the specific felony and underlying actions under consideration today, we accept the determination of the court. We hope the authorities will examine the additional information contained in the forensic accounting report and file charges for other criminal acts where appropriate."

The criminal case against Miller made for an uncomfortable situation for Utah's small group of Democrats on Capitol Hill. The House Minority Caucus repeatedly called on Miller to resign (and he repeatedly refused). On Monday, House Minority Leader Brian King said he was glad for a resolution.

"I am grateful that this manner has come to resolution," Rep. King said in a statement. "Representative Miller's apologies and the sentence arising out of his guilty plea will hopefully help heal the breach of public trust in this situation. We all hope that we can move forward from this and focus our energies on the priorities of the state, and not scandals that mar those priorities."

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