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Gilliam hires officer singled out by former prosecutor

Ryan Miller, left, has been hired by St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney Melissa Gilliam as an investigator. "I have 100 percent confidence in his ability to do the job," Gilliam said. 

A former Farmington police officer who left his job and simultaneously publicly voiced his dissatisfaction with the former prosecuting attorney several months ago has been hired as an investigator by newly-elected St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney Melissa Gilliam.

Ryan Miller, now an investigator in the prosecutor’s office, began his new position Jan. 14.

In June of 2018, Miller wrote a Facebook post that was apparently spurred by action from then-prosecuting attorney Jerrod Mahurin.

Miller began his nearly 3,000-word Facebook post by describing his work as a law enforcement officer with Ste. Genevieve County and the City of Farmington. He described himself as an advocate for the mentally ill, and an officer who was “… fair, consistent, honest, credible, kind and beyond reproach.”

Miller said he had always been vocal about his opinions regarding politics, mental illness and his experience with both on his Facebook page which, he said, was what initially began the tense series of events that Miller went on to describe.

He said that in June of 2017, when his career was “really starting to take off,” he shared a Daily Journal article on his personal Facebook page regarding a recent domestic violence case that had been settled by way of plea deal. In response to a friend’s comment on the post, Miller said he sarcastically wrote that if the charges had been drug related the offender would have gone to prison for life.

According to Miller’s post, Mahurin called a meeting with Farmington Police Chief Rick Baker and Miller. Mahurin allegedly told Baker that he and his staff would no longer accept a case from Miller because he was not credible as an officer.

“He dropped a nuclear bomb on me and my career,” Miller wrote on Facebook. “He did so because he was angered by an opinion. An opinion that I, someone far beneath him in status, income, influence, and power, made known on social media. He came after me without evidence, without just cause, and without mercy."

Miller said he was on the Farmington Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team, feeling uniquely qualified to communicate with and deescalate situations involving individuals with mental illness. Miller felt uniquely qualified, he wrote, because he also had battled mental illness, specifically depression and becoming suicidal.

“My personal, unspoken mission when I was a police officer was to make sure that no one ever felt alone like I once did, that no one ever felt suicide was the answer,” Miller wrote in the social media post.

In an interview on Tuesday with Gilliam and Miller, Gilliam said she has 100 percent confidence in Miller’s ability to do the job.

Miller said that his new job basically happens at the back end of an investigation. When the local police department completes an investigation and sends it to the prosecutor, it’s Miller’s job to make sure they have all the necessary evidence and are able to locate witnesses and victims.

But that isn't his only role. 

“One of my biggest roles is going to be making sure the prosecutor’s office has a presence on social media and is involved in community outreach,” said Miller.

He said he is involved in the Crisis Intervention Council for the Mineral Area and the goal of the prosecutor’s office is to utilize drug court more often, and also to begin using veteran’s court.

Miller said he’s glad to have the prosecutor’s office involved in the Crisis Intervention Team. This team allows individuals to be referred for treatment of substance abuse or mental health issues first, rather than being immediately prosecuted.

“If you don’t change your environment or influences then you can’t change your life,” said Miller.

Veteran’s court is a program similar to drug court that offers treatment for veterans who commit crimes. The closest veteran’s court is in Poplar Bluff and individuals from St. Francois County can be referred. Gilliam and Miller both agreed their goal is to eventually have a veteran’s court in the county.

When asked what led him to come to work in the new prosecutor's office, Miller said he got to know Gilliam during the campaign and election, adding that the story of the incident between him and the former prosecutor was a catalyst for their meeting.

“Melissa said, 'If I win the election, will you come to work for me?'” said Miller. He admits he truly thought she was joking. But, after winning the election, Gilliam called again and offered Miller a job.

“My house in Farmington hadn’t sold yet so I accepted Melissa’s offer,” said Miller.

Miller had moved to Springfield in July after leaving the Farmington Police Department. He announced he was going to work in an unrelated field.

“I’m home now and I’m happy,” said Miller. “This is an opportunity I never thought would happen.”

When asked what she would say to people who might criticize her for hiring someone the prior prosecutor deemed “incompetent.” Gilliam said, “He’s entitled to his opinion and I’m entitled to mine.”

Both Miller and Gilliam agree on one thing. The way the criminal justice system treats people needs to change.

“We in the prosecutor’s office are ministers of justice,” said Gilliam.

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Matt McFarland is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616, or at mmcfarland@dailyjournalonline.com.

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