Conspiracy case dropped against Annapolis man

January 12, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

Conspiracy charges against an Annapolis restaurateur who claimed to be a chiropractor were dropped yesterday by a prosecutor who cited a judge's pretrial ruling and a lack of evidence.

Conspiracy charges against Robert Franklin Miller, 40, were dismissed yesterday by Anne Arundel County Assistant State's Attorney Robert J. Bittman.

Mr. Miller remained in the Anne Arundel County Detention Center on a breaking and entering charge.

The conspiracy charge was based on allegations that Mr. Miller was planning to set up a phony diploma mill for would-be chiropractors out of his Annapolis offices.

Mr. Bittman said yesterday that without records seized from Mr. Miller's office, ruled inadmissible by Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Bruce C. Williams three weeks ago, he lacked sufficient evidence to try the case.

Mr. Miller, known in the Annapolis area as "Dr. Bob," will still be tried next month on charges that he broke into the Annapolis restaurant he once owned and took almost everything that wasn't nailed down -- with Annapolis police looking on.

But Mr. Bittman said the conspiracy case was dealt a fatal blow Dec. 20 when Judge Williams ruled that 44 boxes of evidence confiscated in a June 21, 1993, raid of Mr. Miller's West Street offices could not be used in his trial.

Judge Williams ruled the search warrant was too vague to meet constitutional guarantees against illegal searches.

District Judge Michael E. Loney, who signed the state police search warrant, declined comment yesterday, saying he didn't remember the warrant.

Mr. Bittman said the confiscated records would have shown that Mr. Miller planned to persuade unsuspecting students to send tuition of $4,000 to $5,000 to Mr. Miller for training at the Washington Chiropractic College, a school he planned to set up with no campus, no teachers and no classrooms.

Mr. Bittman said he could have had the 14 people he listed in pretrial court papers as potential witnesses testify.

But without office memos, correspondence and other records, Mr. Miller's attorneys could have questioned why there was no paperwork supporting the witnesses' allegations.

"Other people knew about it and could have testified to what was involved, but it would've been uncorroborated by any records, anything on paper," Mr. Bittman said.

Anne Arundel County Public Defender Alan R. Friedman, one of Mr. Miller's attorneys, said yesterday

that even with the office records, there was never any proof a crime was committed.

"This case amounted to nothing more than an overactive imagination on the part of the police and the prosecution," Mr. Friedman said.

He said he plans to seek a reduction in bond for Mr. Miller, who remained held yesterday on $150,000 bond.

Assistant Public Defender Robert Waldman, his co-counsel, said the records that were ruled inadmissible would have shown that Mr. Miller was setting up a legitimate agency to test and certify chiropractors.

Mr. Miller had a chiropractor's certificate on his office desk, authorities said.

Mr. Miller, who was known to make spinal adjustments to the backs of waitresses and friends at his restaurant, known as Dr. Bob's 911 Club, was not licensed as a chiropractor, according to state records.

But Mr. Friedman said yesterday Mr. Miller was going to serve "more as an executive director" of the agency, and that the records included names of 1,000 chiropractors Mr. Miller was planning to ask to serve on his board of directors.

"There's no crime in that. Those 44 boxes of documents amounted to absolutely nothing," Mr. Waldman said.

Mr. Miller is awaiting trial on charges stemming from a May 24, 1993, incident in which he -- with Annapolis police looking on -- took a pair of bolt cutters and entered the club he once owned.

Mr. Miller contacted Annapolis police and asked them to be on hand for what he described as an effort to reclaim his property in a business dispute.

He said he wanted police in case his partner showed up and threatened him.

He showed police legal papers documenting his ownership, which later proved to be a week out of date, police said.

Mr. Miller also hired two private security guards, eight movers and three rental trucks, police said, and rented a Glen Burnie storage locker for the restaurant's contents.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Miller was in debt and had agreed to relinquish his interest in the restaurant.

Mr. Friedman said yesterday that when the case goes to trial Feb. 28, he will argue that the incident is no basis for criminal charges, but is a civil dispute between two former business partners.

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