It’s been out of the news for a while, but celebrity fitness trainer Darius Miller was seriously injured after a night out in Midtown Atlanta. He was out late with Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin’s daughters and others at a local restaurant/bar. As a result of a serious fall, he suffered a head injury and fell into a coma. According to media reports, he is still in serious condition at a local Atlanta hospital.
While no one doubts the severity of his injury, there were a lot of inconsistencies in the initial report about the incident. Friends of Mr. Miller alleged that he was “beaten” and “attacked” by a group of “10 to 15” employees of 01 Entertainment, a party promotions and dj business. The way the story was initially reported, employees of the entertainment company were trying to film the mayor’s daughters and they objected. Mr. Miller then supposedly “went to their aid” and confronted the cameraman. They argued, and the other 01 Entertainment people there that night attacked and beat Miller into a coma.
Realizing the devastating effects of such negative publicity, 01 Entertainment retained our firm to immediately investigate and get the story straight. The media coverage was intense (must have been a slow news day in Atlanta), and we had to act fast.
We heard a very different story from our client’s employees who were there that night. First, there were only 3 or 4 people associated with 01 there (not the 10-15 that had been reported). According to our client’s employees, they were not trying to film the Mayor’s daughters; they had no idea who they were. Instead, they were simply filming the guests leaving the 01 party at the club next door. It is true that the Mayor’s daughters objected be being filmed, probably because one of them is awaiting sentencing in a federal criminal case in North Carolina. So, they confronted the 01 cameraman and demanded his camera. He refused. Mr. Miller then got involved and tried to physically take the camera away from the 01 employee. Again, he refused to give up the camera and a struggle ensued. According to several witnesses, Mr. Miller was very intoxicated. During the struggle, he fell and his head hit the concrete parking pad at a strange angle. His head must have been injured in the fall. He was immediately taken to the hospital.
We did our best to get our side out to the news media and, fortunately for our client, the negative publicity quickly died down. Here’s a video clip of the local Atlanta TV news coverage.
This case is an excellent example of what happens when the media runs a story after only hearing one side. Fortunately, our contacts in the local media were very quick to answer our calls and get the story straight.
Some criminal defense lawyers stick with the basic “no comment” when faced with a news camera and bright lights. Many times, that is the best course of action. But some cases require more, especially in today’s fast-paced news environment and internet blogs. I don’t like to see my clients convicted in the media before the case even starts. When I see that happening, I’m going to respond in a manner that does not damage our defense if the case has to go to court. It’s a fine line, but sometimes we have to try to walk it.