Stacy Parks Miller faces discipline
While prosecutorial misconduct generally slides under the radar, every once in a while, there’s a prosecutor whose acts are so egregious that they inspire bar complaints. So it is with Stacy Parks Miller, the chief prosecutor for Centre County, Pennsylvania, whom I previously covered for Slate in May, just before she lost her reelection bid.
If you’ve heard of Parks Miller, it’s because you’ve been watching the news about the Penn State hazing trial. Tim Piazza tragically died in the course of a fraternity hazing event. Parks Miller is in the process of prosecuting the fraternity and 18 individual members for Piazza’s death.
The complaint filed with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board is unrelated to the fraternity case. Instead, it relates to various incidents of alleged misconduct, most of which I covered in my earlier story. The complaint alleges that Parks Miller communicated with judges improperly at least twice and that she created a fake Facebook account to snoop on potential defendants.
As the complaint details, Parks Miller emailed and texted sitting judges about ongoing cases, urging them to make decisions in her favor and scolding them for ruling against her, an unethical practice called “ex parte communications” (meaning that the other side—in this instances, the defendant — does not know about the conversation and cannot weigh in). In 2011, Parks Miller also authorized the creation of the Britney Bella Facebook account — a fake Facebook account which at the time depicted a buxom blonde college student. At least two defendants “friended” Britney Bella. Parks Miller has previously said that the account was to “collect headshot photos” for the purposes of investigating cases. But, as the complaint explains, it appears that she was unethically asking for people charged with crimes to incriminate themselves.
Parks Miller has defended herself rather vigorously in the press, claiming that she is the “victim” of the ex parte communications and that the Britney Bella Facebook page was “legally ethical and necessary for law enforcement.”
While Parks Miller will no longer be on the Penn State prosecution once her successor takes over, most lawyers in the area think there will be little difference in the prosecution’s plan for the case. Although the approach may differ: Parks Miller has engaged in some trademark histrionics, yelling at defense lawyers during the course of the most recent hearings in early August.
The other prosecutor on the Penn State case, Bruce Castor, has his own claim to fame as the man who declined to prosecute Bill Cosby in 2005 for the alleged rape of Andrea Constand. A true political machine, Castor was a prosecutor in Montgomery County, PA, and became the district attorney there from 2000 to 2008. He then took an elected seat on the Montgomery Board of Commissioners. But then he managed to both lose that seat and lose an election for district attorney in 2015. He became a “special assistant” in Centre County and spent a few months as an interim Attorney General for the state when Kathleen Kane was removed and indicted. The governor replaced him in January 2017 with Bruce Beemer.
Yet Castor’s handling of the Cosby case was his undoing. He had made a secret agreement in 2005 with Cosby not to prosecute, which became an issue in the 2016 prosecution when Cosby claimed that Castor had verbally agreed to a non-prosecution agreement.
Parks Miller’s hearing for her misconduct case is set for November 29. She told a local news outlet that she was “confident” in the outcome.