Miller the chiller takes prison pact to courtAngry jailbirds settle unpaid debt
Georgetown — A chiller will collect what he is owed, especially if he knows as much about Delaware law as John E. Miller, an inmate at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.
Miller won a lawsuit against a former inmate who failed to pay Miller for his help.
While in prison, 84-year-old Robert Dorn agreed to pay Miller $15,000 to perform what Miller called various services. When asked what services he was providing, Miller said, “Looking out for his best interests…a little bodyguard service.
“The man is a handful, to say the least,” said Miller.
Dorn, in a yellow sweater with baby blue stripes, depended on a cane to slowly make his way to the podium before Judge T. Henley Graves, Feb. 15, in a Sussex County Superior Court room. Dorn wore a headset during the proceedings to improve his hearing.
Miller, with a bald head and bushy beard, was escorted into the courtroom by two corrections officers, towering over both of them. Handcuffed and clad in a white Department of Correction jumpsuit, Miller appeared at ease, attempting to make small talk with Graves and rattling off Delaware Code as well as some paid attorneys.
Graves said to Miller, “If I was in prison, I’d probably want you as my friend too.”
According to court documents handwritten by Miller, Dorn is known throughout the prison system as a child molester. “The defendant hired the plaintiff’s services as a ‘chiller/cooler/fixer’ for $15,000, and memorialized the agreement in writing, notarized,” Miller wrote.
According to Miller, Dorn paid only $6,000. Court records say Dorn was discharged from prison Oct. 25, 2011. Miller tried to recover the remaining $9,000 Dorn owed him by filing a lawsuit against Dorn.
Dorn failed to appear for his April 24 trial date at Justice of the Peace Court 9 in Middletown. Judge Sean McCormick entered a default judgment in favor of Miller for $6,500. In May, Miller requested a transfer of the judgment from Justice of the Peace to Superior Court, so the judgment could be executed.
Miller then filed a December request for a sheriff’s sale of Dorn’s personal property and real estate to satisfy his debt to Miller.
According to an inventory of Dorn’s property performed by the Sheriff’s Office, he owns a 1997 Dodge Ram pickup and two lots in Hillcrest Acres Mobile Home Park in Millsboro, where he lives.
Dorn filed a motion to stay the sheriff’s sale Jan. 31. “Due to major surgery, I was confined in the hospital, and I was not informed of the court proceedings,” he wrote.
Miller filed an answer Feb. 4., in which he asked the court to deny the stay. If Dorn was hospitalized, Miller wrote, he should be able to provide documentation to prove it.
Miller also said none of Dorn’s mail was returned undelivered.
Graves asked Dorn why he failed to appear before the justice of the peace.
“I was confined to my bed,” Dorn said.
Graves said Dorn should have informed the court and had the trial date rescheduled. He said Dorn filed an answer to Miller’s complaint and a bill of particulars before the trial date. “You were smart enough to do that,” Graves said. “You just don’t blow off a summons telling you to come to court.”
Graves said if Miller would be willing to accept a lesser amount, and if Dorn would write Miller a check on the spot, he would consider the case settled. Otherwise, Graves said, he would send it back to Justice of the Peace Court, where the court would challenge the legality of Miller and Dorn’s initial agreement. “I don’t know if it’s legal for one inmate to enter into a contract with another inmate,” Graves said.
Miller said it is against the rules for the inmates to enter into contracts, but, he said, it is not against the law.
Miller said he would be willing to settle the case for $4,500.
“My checking account has been rifled,” Dorn said.
“Oh, here we go,” Miller said.
“That has nothing to do with this,” Graves said. “He didn’t rifle your checking account.”
Graves said he felt like an auctioneer. “This is not my job,” he said.
Dorn said, “I’ll give him half of what he wants.”
Miller agreed to an immediate check for $3,200. “He’s so slimy,” Miller said of Dorn.
Dorn stood at the podium and wrote a check for Miller.
“If it bounces, we come back here, and I’m going to let the sheriff’s sale go forward,” Graves said.
To Dorn, Graves said, “Stay out of trouble.”
Dorn had been sentenced to three years in prison in 2008 for multiple violations of probation charges relating to a 1993 conviction of aggravated harassment. Dorn is also a registered sex offender.
Miller told Graves he was serving time for first-degree robbery. According to court records, Miller was deemed a habitual offender; he was sentenced to five years in prison in 2008, following a conviction of misuse of mail and felony terroristic threatening. According to court documents, New Castle County Superior Court Judge Jerome Herlihy was the victim of Miller’s threats.
Miller has not yet had to pay any money to file the action against Dorn. In July 2012, Miller was granted in forma pauperis by Superior Court Judge Richard Stokes, meaning Miller is exempt from payment because he cannot afford it. Stokes stipulated, “Should plaintiff recover monies due to him, then he shall pay the court any costs and fees which otherwise would be owed had this application not been granted.”