Last of ‘Niles Five’ gets jailPublished 11:06pm Monday, January 30, 2012
The first four defendants to be sentenced in the Niles “sextortion” case all received prison time. The fifth and final defendant, Martell Miller, avoided that fate when he was sentenced to a year in jail and three years probation Monday.
Judge Scott Schofield and Berrien County Assistant Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli agreed that Miller deserved a prison term but a favorable plea bargain that dismissed his most serious charges left Miller with a low sentencing guideline range.
“Your co-defendants are going to prison. They deserve it, and you do, too,” Schofield told Miller.
Pierangeli told reporters after the sentencing that Miller benefited by being the last to be sentenced. He said the victims were reluctant to testify in a trial after lengthy testimony in co-defendant Martise Washington’s trial.
“They couldn’t deal with it anymore,” Pierangeli said.
Jury selection was under way in Miller’s trial last month when the two sides struck a deal that dismissed criminal sexual conduct charges and allowed Miller to plead to attempted assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and assault and battery.
Miller is one of five Niles teenagers involved in a sex video extortion scandal in March, in which a 17-year-old girl was unknowingly videotaped having sex with Washington.
The recording was then used to blackmail the girl into sexual acts with some of the defendants.
After his co-defendants sexually assaulted the girl at one of their homes, Miller drove the girl around Niles while his co-defendants forced her into more sex acts.
Along with his involvement in the scandal, Miller also was charged in connection with an assault of a girl that took place at Niles High School in February.
Miller continued to deny he sexually assaulted anyone in either incident, and he choked back sobs throughout the proceedings Monday.
“I didn’t assault anyone,” he said, holding back tears. “I’m not a sex offender.”
Miller also apologized to the community, his family and the victim.
“He was the only one to apologize,” Pierangeli said. “I was surprised.”
Pierangeli is still unsure if any of the defendants have learned their lesson.
Great harm done
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I don’t think any of these kids realize what this did to the victims. There was a lot of talking about themselves.”
Schofield said Miller enabled his friends to commit a “brutal sexual assault,” and the judge tried to help Miller understand the impact of his actions.
“When anyone is sexually assaulted, the message sent is you are not a person. You’re a toy, a thing, a nonperson,” he said.
“It sticks with them for a long time — maybe forever.”
Schofield warned that if Miller doesn’t follow the provisions of his probation “to the letter,” he will probably find himself in prison. Miller will receive credit for 134 days already served in the county jail.