William Henry Miller spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in a jail cell that smelled of dirty mop water and feet. He spent his 4-year-old son’s birthday surrounded by concrete walls.
In 2015, the 22-year-old was arrested for armed robbery and cruelty to children. While incarcerated, he lost his job of a year and a half changing tires on 18-wheelers. His Crown Victoria was impounded.
But police arrested the wrong man.
Miller, now 23, is suing the city and the Hapeville police officer who arrested him in Fulton County Superior Court for false arrest.
Attorney Harold Spence said Miller’s case goes beyond sloppy police work.
“It was a deliberate act of wrongdoing,” Spence said. “And deliberate acts of wrongdoing have consequences.”
Hapeville police and the city of Hapeville did not return calls seeking comment.
Miller’s ordeal began on Aug. 6, 2015, when a woman reported an armed robbery to Hapeville police. She said she met a man named “Andre” on Facebook, and he promised to offer her a job. They met in the back of a Delta Community Credit Union on July 26, 2015.
When she told him she wasn’t interested in the type of work he was offering, “Andre” pointed toward his lap. He said he had a gun.
The woman’s two children sat in the back seat as “Andre” demanded the victim’s debit card, which he used to withdraw $500. The woman and her children escaped unharmed.
She contacted police and gave them the Facebook account where she had messaged “Andre.” The name on the account was “William ‘CashinOut’ Miller” and she gave police his Instagram account. The man was African American and had dreadlocks.
She also described the car the robber was driving, a new, dark gray Toyota Corolla or Camry, and gave police its tag number.
A month and a half later, Det. Jason Dyer of the HPD obtained arrest warrants for a man named William Henry Miller on charges of armed robbery and cruelty to children. Miller is African American and wears his hair in dreadlocks.
The officer swore to the court that the victim had identified the photograph as depicting the armed robber. But she had yet to see a photo of Miller, the man police believed to have committed the crime, according to Miller’s lawsuit.
Miller was pulled over for a traffic violation on Nov. 12, 2015, in DeKalb County. The officer told him there was a warrant for his arrest in Hapeville and arrested him.
“I told him it wasn’t me. I knew it wasn’t me,” Miller said.
He said he’d never even been to Hapeville.
Miller’s Crown Victoria was left on the side of the road. Its license plate did not match the one the victim described.
Miller said it was over a week before he could contact any of his relatives to tell them he was in jail.
“I remember waking up in there every day thinking when am I gonna get to go home because I know I didn’t do it,” he said. “It was a nightmare.”
The robbery victim did not actually see a photo of Miller until March 2016 — two months after Miller was released on bond and after spending 53 days in jail, according to the lawsuit. The photo did not look like the assailant the victim identified in Facebook and Instagram posts.
When eventually shown a lineup, the victim identified another man.
The charges against Miller were dismissed March 31 after the victim failed to positively identify Miller.
Miller now spends his days detailing cars. It doesn’t pay as much as changing tires, but with a felony charge on his record when he was released, his former employer wouldn’t hire him back. He said he tells his son that for a few months last year he was out of town. It’s too hard to explain that he was in jail, and that he shouldn’t have been there.
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