Developer says Miller struck him

Charges `absolutely' not true, senator says

September 22, 2006|By Andrew A. Green and Nicole Fuller | Andrew A. Green and Nicole Fuller,Sun reporters

A Prince George's County developer has filed criminal charges against Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, alleging that the Democrat punched him in the jaw, a claim the senator denies.

The alleged altercation took place at a Prince George's County Council hearing Wednesday afternoon during discussion of a bill to sharply reduce development in rural areas. The developer, Leo Bruso, claims in a charging document that in the hearing room, Miller placed an arm on his biceps and then hit him in the jaw.

"I did nothing to provoke this attack," Bruso wrote in his complaint. "Apparently, my political positions offend him. He has seen me at other political functions."

Bruso, a longtime Prince George's businessman and chief executive officer of Land & Commercial Inc., has not returned phone messages from The Sun.

Miller said the charges are "absolutely, unequivocally" not true.

"I haven't punched anybody since I was in junior high school," he said. "I was in a public forum with 500 witnesses, and there was no punching, honestly and truly."

The case has been assigned to District Judge Thurman Rhodes. A court hearing on the charges of second-degree assault is set for Oct. 6.

Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said he has asked the Baltimore state's attorney's office to handle the case to avoid any conflict of interest. He said he has appeared on election slates with Miller and has received campaign contributions from Bruso.

Miller and Bruso testified against the zoning bill that was up for discussion, but Bruso is supporting the senator's opponent in the general election, Republican Ron Miller. Bruso has also donated to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s re-election campaign.

Miller's office provided the names of witnesses to corroborate the senator's story. Two of them said Bruso appeared to overreact to a friendly gesture by Miller.

Yates Clagett, who works for the Prince George's County Soil Conservation District and attended the meeting, said he was about 15 feet away from the men when the incident took place.

Clagett said Miller was walking up the aisle on his way out of the hearing room, shaking hands with people and saying goodbye.

"When he got to Leo, he grabbed Leo's arm and not even in a swing or anything placed his fist on Leo's cheek in a kind of a `Hey buddy, how you doing.' It was not a swing, it was not malicious, it was a `Hey, man, how you doing, good to see you,' politician kind of thing," said Clagett, who counts Miller as a family friend and has done business with Bruso.

"And then Mr. Bruso immediately snapped and swung at Senator Miller and hit Senator Miller, and I saw Senator Miller's head come back," Clagett said. "If anybody should be filing a complaint, it ought to be Senator Miller against Mr. Bruso."

Margaret Addis, an associate county attorney who was staffing the meeting, said she saw the exchange and provided an account similar to Clagett's. She said Bruso appeared to be tense and out of sorts and that he reacted angrily to what looked like a cordial, playful gesture from Miller.

"Mike was very friendly with him," Addis said.

Afterward, Bruso got up to speak and, at the end of his remarks, began ranting that Miller had hit him in the face, she said.

"It was completely random, irrational. ... It was really out there," she said.

Miller's attorney, William Brennan, said the senator will not press charges.

"The senator is choosing not to make more of this than it is," Brennan said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.