Already back to work as a golf instructor, the man serving 12 months in jail for two misdemeanor convictions stemming from a crash that killed a Lansdowne infant sought a restricted driver’s license to get behind the wheel.
That request has been denied by a Circuit Court judge.
Attorneys for John Miller were back in court on April 12 to petition Judge Douglas L. Fleming Jr. to allow him to drive himself from the Sheriff’s Office work-release center near Leesburg to the Virginia Golf Center in Clifton.
Fleming revoked Miller’s license as part of his sentence for convictions of reckless driving and failure to yield to pedestrians. The charges stem from aAug. 31, 2016 crash when Miller drove through the intersection on Riverside Parkway and Coton Manor Drive in Lansdowne and ran into Mindy Schulz as she was pushing her infant son in a stroller through the crosswalk. The baby, Tristan, was killed. Mindy Schulz was injured and released from the hospital after three days of treatment. Miller was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter in the case, but the charge was dropped when evidence failed to show he was using a phone while driving.
After the trial, Fleming authorized Miller to be considered for work release if the Sheriff’s Office found he qualified for the program. The request was approved on March 18 and Miller is permitted to leave the Adult Detention Center for up to 14 hours per day to work at the Clifton golf center. His request to return to work at Raspberry Falls Golf Club north of Leesburg was not approved.
Miller’s attorney Steven T. Webster said getting transportation to Clifton has been a hardship for Miller. He is permitted to have three drivers on a list approved by the Sheriff’s Office to transport him. At the time of the hearing he had two approved drivers. One was his father who lives in Hagerstown, MD, and has found the transports to take all day because he does not return home between the morning and evening trips to and from jail.
The attorneys said an application to approve a third driver had been rejected by the Sheriff’s Office because it was the father of one of Miller’s golf students, which could be a conflict under the agency’s policies. However, the work release supervisor testified the circumstances may not be a disqualifying factor. Miller also is permitted to use a taxi service or public transportation, he said.
Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Sean P. Morgan opposed the motion. He argued that the suspension of Miller’s license was an important part of the punishment for the fatal crash. “It’s a privilege that the court properly suspended,” Morgan said, adding that the “mere inconvenience” to Miller’s drivers was not sufficient cause to return Miller’s license even on a restricted basis.
Mindy Schulz and her husband Rodney, who strongly opposed Miller being approved for work release, attended the court hearing.
“The Court remains mindful of the victim impact testimony previously elicited in this case,” Fleming wrote in a letter opinion denying the motion. “Accordingly, the Court assigns weight to the fact that the Schulz family very likely may suffer additional distress knowing that Mr. Miller is driving, albeit to work, during the period of his twelve month license suspension.”
“Moreover, Mr. Miller has not established that alternative means of transportation, such as public transportation, taxis, and volunteer drivers, are unavailable or impracticable. Although the evidence established that one of Mr. Miller’s volunteer drivers lives in Maryland and may suffer hardship given the distance he must travel, the Court heard no additional evidence on the viability of alternative means of transportation, including but not limited to the use of other volunteer drivers. The burden to establish good cause is on the party requesting restricted driving privileges; that burden has not been met. Considering the particular facts of this case, coupled with the lack of evidence establishing good cause, the Court denies the motion for restricted license,” Fleming wrote.