EAGLE — The Roaring Fork Valley man accused of menacing his neighbors after they told police in July that his son and his son’s girlfriend — who had warrants for their arrests related to allegedly starting the Lake Christine Fire — were at the man’s home was acquitted Wednesday of all four charges he faced.
Craig Miller, upon hearing the verdict, nodded his head and bowed slightly with his hands clasped at the jury. He was found not guilty of a felony charge of attempted burglary, two misdemeanor counts of menacing and a trespassing charge, also a misdemeanor.
After Craig Miller’s two-day trial in Eagle County District Court, jurors deliberated for just over an hour before reaching the verdict.
The prosecution and defense, during their closing arguments, both agreed that the case hinged on who was more credible: the neighbors whose home he went to on July 14 or Miller.
On July 14, authorities said Miller learned from his family that two Eagle County sheriff’s deputies had come to the Missouri Heights house he had been renting to arrest his son, Richard, and Allison Marcus. Both face felony arson charges for allegedly sparking the July 3 fire that burned 12,500 acres and threatened Basalt, Missouri Heights and El Jebel.
Miller, who testified that he had been asleep when the deputies arrived, acknowledged that he got into a vehicle and went looking for the deputies. He and his attorney, Michael Fox of Glenwood, contended that he wanted to explain that a deal had been reached between the attorney for Marcus and District Attorney Bruce Brown about when they would surrender on the warrants.
They said he was frustrated but calm when he spoke to them.
The deputies testified that, as they were parked a few blocks away and consulting with a supervisor after family members said Richard Miller and Marcus were not in the home, Miller sped up to them, blocked in their patrol vehicles, and began ranting at them about the surrender deal and demanding to know who had tipped police off.
Miller then called a detective, leaving voicemails in which he said authorities had broken the surrender pact and that he was going to enlist federal law enforcement to “control your f—ing agents,” who he deemed had gone “rogue.”
After an angry exchange with the deputies’ supervisor, Miller declared that he knew it was his neighbors and hung up on the sergeant as the officer warned him he could be arrested if he went to their home.
The neighbors testified Tuesday that Miller, around 11:30 p.m., was banging on their door and ringing the doorbell, shouting at them, went into their back yard, peered in windows and tried to open their front door.
Miller on Wednesday told jurors that he never did any of that, save for glance through a couple of windows with a small flashlight he had. He testified that he tried the doorbell and, thinking it was broken, knocked politely twice. He said he went around the side of their home en route to try to inform another neighbor, and noticed a light coming from the neighbors’ home and saw two silhouettes in a window. That prompted him to return and knock again.
Getting no answer, he said he walked back to his home. The woman in the home he’d just been at called 911. Her panicked, tearful call was played for the jury. The same deputies returned and arrested Miller.
Miller was feeling confident after closing arguments. While the jury deliberated, he asked a reporter if he would like to “interview me after I’m acquitted.”
This story will be updated.