A grand jury has declined to file criminal charges against Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.
After months of investigation, testimony and secrecy, the state Attorney General’s Office released its findings of a grand jury investigation that rejected forgery allegations against Parks Miller.
In a release issued Friday morning, the office reported that the grand jury had found no evidence of wrongdoing by Parks Miller.
“The grand jury’s conclusions led to a definitive conclusion,” Attorney General Kathleen Kane said. “Simply put, the evidence does not support criminal charges.”
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The attorney general’s involvement began when attorney Philip Masorti went to the Bellefonte police station in early January and reported that Parks Miller had forged the signature of Judge Pamela A. Ruest on a court document, based upon statements made by an employee, Michelle Shutt, who was also a former paralegal in the District Attorney’s Office.
The report states Parks Miller learned of the complaint when Bellefonte police asked her about the incident and she referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office.
The accusations were made public later that month at a Centre County Board of Commissioners meeting, when attorney Bernard Cantorna presented the board with a sworn statement from Shutt.
In it, Shutt said she had seen Parks Miller sign Ruest’s name on a fake bail order that was later filed with the Prothonotary’s Office. The order was used in an investigation into a reported murder plot against former Assistant District Attorney Nathan Boob.
The grand jury heard testimony from more than 20 witnesses, including Parks Miller, Ruest, county Administrator Tim Boyde, solicitor Louis Glantz, commissioners and a handwriting expert who determined the signature was actually Ruest’s. That conclusion was confirmed by a second expert, the jury reported.
“As such we believe the signature on the ‘fake bail order’ is in fact the signature of Judge Pamela Ruest and criminal charges should not be taken with regard to the forgery claim,” the report reads.
Parks Miller testified that she asked Shutt to prepare the order and took it to Ruest’s chambers when it was completed and the judge signed it, according to the report.
Ruest told Bellefonte police she could not remember whether she had signed the order in an affidavit used by the department to get a search warrant for Parks Miller’s office.
Ruest declined to comment Friday.
Parks Miller denied wrongdoing, calling Shutt’s affidavit “completely and patently false” and “highly defamatory” in a statement from attorneys issued after the January commissioners meeting.
In subsequent court filings, Parks Miller had maintained that she was subject to a conspiracy between the commissioners and other county officials, Glantz and members of the defense bar in an effort to embarrass her and drive her from office, sentiments that were again expressed at a news conference on the Centre County Courthouse steps Friday afternoon.
The actions of the board after the meeting were also addressed in the report.
The report states that the Commonwealth Attorneys Act supersedes the older statutes found in the County Code and the Attorney General’s Office has sole jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute cases referred to it by a district attorney with a conflict of interest, the report stated.
The grand jury recommended legislative action to clear up any gray areas between the act and existing statutes.
“Clarification on the interplay between the statutes is needed to avoid duplication of investigation and a depletion of valuable resources within the state,” the report said. “At one point, there appeared to be a local investigation, a state investigation and a private investigation sanctioned by the Centre County (c)ommissioners all being undertaken simultaneously.”
The grand jury also investigated other accusations from Shutt that Parks Miller had used her staff to perform campaign work when she was seeking re-election in 2013, using Centre County resources and office supplies. Parks Miller cross-filed on both the Republican and Democratic ballots.
Shutt testified that Parks Miller had asked her to do things like notarize campaign documents and make copies of them, add campaign events to her calendar and print an 88-page packet of election information on the county printer.
The jury concluded that about $225 of campaign work had been done, calculating Shutt’s pay, benefits and the printed pages, and determined that it was not enough to warrant charges.
“The cost of the copies at $3.02 is inconsequential, and is too trivial to warrant the condemnation of conviction,” the grand jury report reads. “The use of county materials and time seems to be within a customary tolerance.”
No other employees interviewed said they had done political work for Parks Miller on company time, according to the report.