Six Broward County jurors have found a former sheriff's deputy innocent of child abuse in the caught on camera take-down of a 15-year-old girl at a Pompano Beach school.
It took the jury about 40 minutes to reach a verdict in the case against Willard Miller Thursday.
“That wait was excruciating, but I’m just happy, I'm happy," Miller said. It’s been a long three years, seeing all the things said about me, now I’m able to be vindicated and everyone knows the truth."
The resource officer — at the Cross Creek School for students with emotional and behavioral issues — was seen on surveillance video slamming the five-foot-tall, 95-pound girl to the floor on Sept. 25, 2019.
During closing arguments, prosecutor Justin McCormack said Miller lost his temper.
“He’s fired up,” the prosecutor said. “He’s taking it out on her.”
Defense attorney Jeremy Kroll maintained Miller handled the situation responsibly and that the girl’s account of what happened was unreliable.
“This is a big fat nothing burger,” he said.
Miller testified in his own defense during the four-day trial and demonstrated in court the take-down technique he was trained to use after the teenager kicked his leg from behind.
Miller said he had no malicious intent and lost his balance when the girl's foot hit a chair in a room designated for time-outs for upset students.
He got emotional when describing how the handcuffed teenager was cursing at him and threatening to take his gun.
The girl testified she just tapped the back of the deputy's knee with her foot to make his leg buckle and did not kick him full force.
She said she didn't know why she did it.
Miller was investigating a surge of vape pens found on campus, and she was uncooperative when he asked her who gave her a vape pen.
The girl's mother testified she knew about her daughter kicking the deputy but did not know about the take-down until she saw the video later.
The family filed a civil lawsuit against the Broward Sheriff's Office as a result. Sheriff Gregory Tony fired Miller.
The names of the mother and daughter are being withheld in this story to protect the identity of the girl who is still a juvenile.
Had Miller been found guilty he would have been looking at a possible five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Sign up for our Breaking newsletter to get the most urgent news stories in your inbox.