Charges against the woman accused of embezzling nearly $190,000 from Bend Painting were dismissed Tuesday because a grand juror discussed the case with the business owner, tainting the grand jury indictment.
Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said his office received a report about the juror’s conversation after the grand jury hearing in July for Gretchen Marie Miller, 33, who was indicted on 15 counts of theft, forgery and falsifying business records.
After the first day of the two-day grand jury hearing, Bend Painting owner T.J. Iams met with a juror and discussed the merits of the case, according to Hummel. The juror did not report the conversation to the court or to the District Attorney’s Office.
Hummel considered charging both the owner and juror with official misconduct, contempt of court or obstructing government administration.
But during the investigation there was a dispute as to who initiated the conversation, so no charges were filed, he said.
Still, the indictment process was corrupted and he decided to dismiss the case, Hummel said.
“No individual criminal case is more important than the sanctity of our criminal justice system,” Hummel said in a statement. “When misconduct occurs I’ll root it out and make things right.”
Members of a grand jury should never discuss a case, he said. Similarly, crime victims should not seek jurors “to put their spin on the evidence,” Hummel said.
“The scales of justice were tipped in this case, and I won’t stand for that in Deschutes County,” he said.
Jacob Houze, defense attorney for Miller, said in a statement Tuesday that he brought information to Hummel during the case, including information about the wrongdoing during the grand jury proceedings.
Houze also said he had information that the Bend Painting owner made a statement to a witness outside of the grand jury proceeding indicating that he could not remember whether he and Miller had a relationship or whether he gave Miller authorization to use the money.
“When we brought this information to Mr. Hummel, he investigated it thoroughly and ultimately made the correct decision to dismiss Ms. Miller’s case ‘with prejudice’ — meaning the charges can never be brought again,” Houze said.
Miller was arrested by Bend Police in December, after a new office manager at Bend Painting noticed financial irregularities and missing funds.
When investigators questioned Miller about the allegations, she claimed the alleged stolen money had come to her in the form of gifts from Iams, with whom she said she was having a sexual relationship.
In a previous interview with The Bulletin, Iams denied both giving the money to Miller and having any kind of romantic relationship with her.
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