A former employee of the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center is nearing trial on a misdemeanor battery charge nearly two years after video shows her lifting a 16-year-old detainee off a chair and tossing her to the floor.
Tia Miller, 31, was not charged until more than a year after the August 2011 incident — and only after the victim’s mother, fearing the Department of Juvenile Justice was covering up the criminal nature of the incident, sought help from Gov. Rick Scott.
When she tried to get a DJJ supervisor to report the incident involving her daughter as a crime, Laura Segal said, “He said, ‘Ma'am, ha ha. The police don't come out this way.’”
Miller resigned soon after the Aug. 6, 2011 incident was reported to DJJ, but no criminal charge was brought until Aug. 22, 2012.
Her attorney, David Novack, said Miller is preparing for a trial and fighting the charge because, in part, a conviction could prevent her achieving her goal of working with students in the future.
Lindsey Jarmakowicz, now 18, told Local 6 she disobeyed Miller’s order to return to her cell because – unlike all other detainees present -- she had not been allowed to use the phone.
“My mom knows it's phone call night. I'm in juvenile detention. Obviously, my mom is going to worry about me regardless,” Jarmakowicz said.
After approaching Jarmakowicz and gesturing to her to get out of her seat, Miller is seen grabbing the girl by her jumpsuit, lifting he rout of the chair, and throwing her to the tile floor.
“Honestly, I don’t think I did anything to deserve it,” Jarmakowicz said. “I didn't lay a hand on her and I didn't touch her.”
Miller’s attorney said the video speaks for itself, but pointed out this was an especially tense night in the JDC. Rival groups had been feuding and an uprising had just been quelled in the boys’ area, he said, so Miller was trying to get the girls back to their dormitory area.
Miller, who lives in Pinellas County, declined to comment.
Jarmakowicz, who had a turbulent adolescence, was being detained at the time after being charged with battery on a law enforcement officer.
“They tried to blame it all on me because I was, you know, in there, a juvenile delinquent, whatever you want to call me, “ she said. “But still, regardless of the fact, I don't care who you are ... you don't deserve to be hurt.”
Miller has a pretrial status hearing next week, but Novack said he expects the trial will be delayed as he continues to receive and review evidence.