PULASKI — For awhile, a giant Pulaski County Halloween bonfire party — said to have been thrown by a corrections officer in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, which drew numerous relatives of attorneys and officers before it turned into a brawl — was the talk of local courthouse circles.
On Monday, more than a year later, a plea agreement quietly resolved the most serious of the few charges that came out of the episode.
Gavin Dakota Miller, 21, of Pulaski, pleaded guilty to two counts of malicious wounding and three counts of assault and battery and was sentenced to serve one year and 10 months behind bars. Nearly 12 more years of prison and jail time was suspended, meaning it could be re-imposed if Miller gets into trouble sometime after his release.
Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Brad Finch ordered that Miller be supervised by the probation office for five years, and that he have no contact with the five people whom he hit or kicked during the fracas that broke out in the early morning hours of Nov. 1, 2020.
Miller’s pleas followed the deferred dispositions given in September to two women who were charged with misdemeanors after the party — deferred meaning the charges will be dropped if they stay out of trouble for a year — and a charge against a juvenile that was not pursued, said special prosecutor Debra Sifford, an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Grayson County.
Sifford took the case after the Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office withdrew. A note in court records said that at least one witness was a relative of an employee of the commonwealth’s attorney’s office and another was related to an investigator who often worked for Pulaski County prosecutors.
At Miller’s plea hearing, Sifford offered a capsule version of what happened.
She said it began with an open invitation to a Halloween bonfire that was sent out on Snapchat a month or so ahead of time by a man identified by Sifford as Jared David.
The party was held in the 4700 block of Clarks Ferry Road, in the Draper area, Sifford said. Investigators later estimated that between 150 and 500 people showed up, coming from six counties besides Pulaski. They and parked up and down the road.
Among those at the party was Miller, who court records said worked for a highway construction company.
County deputies were first called out for a noise complaint and thought the party, which was down to 150 or 200 people, was going to settle down, Sifford said. But as the officers were driving away at about 1 a.m., they got a call that an altercation had begun.
The spark was a woman telling Miller that he should be nicer to his girlfriend, Sifford said. He responded by slapping at his critic and others began to jump in until there were battles around the bonfire and down a hill where cars were parked, Sifford said.
One of the men Miller was convicted of wounding sustained a broken nose and had to have three staples put in his head. The other suffered fractures to his facial bones, Sifford said. Both men had boot-shaped bruises on their bodies.
One man, who was beat up as he went to check his car, later found blood spatters and prints that seemed to be from Miller’s boots on the vehicle, Sifford said.
Sifford said investigators interviewed many people who were at their party and worked their way through numerous dimly lit cell phone videos, but were not given much help in tracking down other combatants.
“There are many other co-defendants out there we have not been able to identify,” Sifford said.