VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A 20-year-old Virginia Beach man was convicted Tuesday afternoon on two felony charges for stabbing a city police officer in the leg in 2017.
Riley Miller was convicted by a judge Tuesday of attempted second-degree murder and malicious wounding. His trial started Monday.
The convictions involve lesser charges than those Miller originally faced — attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer and malicious wounding of a police officer.
Miller had opted for a bench trial, so the decision to acquit or convict was up to Judge A. Bonwill Shockley. She said she struggled with her decision and found reasonable doubt as to whether Miller knew the man he had stabbed was an officer.
Miller was arrested Dec. 13, 2017. Officers had responded to a call about an armed robbery around 2:30 a.m., and realized the suspect in the armed robbery call was similar to the person in a domestic call in the same neighborhood.
Miller, who was 17 at the time, had threatened his stepfather with a knife.
Two officers arrived outside Miller’s house on Victory Road. A struggle ensued, and Officer Adrian Rodriguez was stabbed in the upper leg.
Following Miller’s arrest, the officers testified that Miller shouted “I hope the officer dies. I hope I (expletive) killed him.”
Afterward, video evidence showed Miller make similar statements again hours later while being interrogated. Defense attorney Steve Givando said those statements were made under the influence of Clonazolam, a liquid similar to Xanax. Givando said the drug made Miller incapable of rational thinking and aggressive.
Miller’s stepfather, Craig Russell, testified first Tuesday morning. He described how Miller had just returned from a drug treatment center in Staunton, Virginia. He talked about the confrontation he had with Miller when he heard him cursing his mother in the home. Russell noticed that Miller was agitated and acting strangely.
“He looked like he was on drugs,” he said. “He had just gotten home from rehab.”
Russell told him he needed to leave, and that’s when Riley pulled out a knife from his drawer in his bedroom. His mother called 911, and the confrontation that included the stabbing of the officer happened minutes later.
A drug expert and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Melissa Piasecki talked about the effects of Clonazolam. She said it put Riley Miller in an altered mental state and he was showing hostility. She said Miller’s saying “I hope you die, I’ll kill your family” to police, and his spitting at police and medical personnel showed lack of inhibition, which is typical of drugs similar to Xanax.
However, the key issue revolved around whether Miller was able to form intention and premeditation when he stabbed the police officer. Piasecki said he had impaired judgment, but on cross-examination, he couldn’t say he was totally incapable of judgment.
The prosecution argued that texts sent to an accomplice in the armed robbery 30 minutes before the stabbing showed planning and deliberation.
Miller pleaded guilty Monday to four felonies connected to that robbery earlier that night. Those charges include armed robbery, conspiracy, drug and gun charges.
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