In a courtroom where victims denounced him and still-devoted parishioners embraced him, a former Roman Catholic priest was sentenced Friday to three years in prison for molesting a boy in the late 1980s.
George Miller, 70, of Oxnard, had pleaded guilty to molesting the boy starting when the youth was 9, and admitted to sexually assaulting four other boys whose cases couldn't be prosecuted because of statute of limitations problems.
Arriving at court, he was hugged by a half-dozen former parishioners who watched the sentencing with tears in their eyes. "Not guilty," two of them said to a reporter outside, but they refused to explain.
Before his sentence was pronounced, two victims in the uncharged cases asked to speak. A man, now in his 30s, asked Miller to turn and face him.
"I looked to God and God gave me you," he said, fighting back tears. "You're a priest, for crying out loud. My family trusted you to teach me the ways of the Lord, not the ways of hell." The man, whose name was kept confidential, is the brother of the man whose case was the subject of Miller's sentence. He said his brother is now in jail on drug charges and had drifted into drug use after being molested.
A second victim, 42, told Miller, "I don't love or respect you. ... When you infiltrated our family and poisoned them, our faith was rocked. We were left emotionally bankrupt."
The gray-haired Miller, wearing casual clothes and seated at the counsel table, said nothing.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Ulfig imposed the sentence and told Miller that he would have to register as a sex offender. He was taken into custody immediately.
Outside court, Miller's attorney, Steve Cron, said, "There are people who believe fervently in him and don't believe there's any truth in the allegations."
But he said the number of accusations against Miller and the availability of witnesses who would have testified made it a difficult case to challenge.
The sentencing took place against the backdrop of a reported grand jury investigation of the actions of Cardinal Roger Mahony and other Los Angeles archdiocese officials regarding the molestation scandal.
In 2007, the archdiocese reached a record $660 million settlement with more than 500 alleged victims of child abuse. Miller was transferred between parishes beginning in 1977 when a complaint was made about him. He was sent to Oxnard, where most of the abuses took place. Subsequently, he was sent to a church in the Pacoima area of Los Angeles. Parishioners from Pacoima came to support him in court.
Tod Tamberg, director of media relations for the archdiocese, issued a statement after Miller's sentencing.
"We hope that today's sentencing brings some measure of comfort to George Miller's victims," it said.
The statement said that 32 years ago the mother of a boy asked church authorities to deal with allegations she made against Miller, but Miller denied them and he was allowed to remain in ministry by Cardinal Timothy Manning, who is now deceased.
Miller was the subject of a 1989 report of "boundary violations," the statement said, adding that the term does not describe sexual abuse and is not a euphemism. Mahony removed Miller from ministry in 1996 after a complaint of sex abuse dating to the 1970s, it said. In 2002, the archdiocese received more reports of abuse by Miller in the '70s and informed police.