The attack was quick but brutal, and its setting unexpected: a Valley View Mall jewelry store on a Tuesday night, midway through the summer of 2018.
Evidence later showed that shortly after 8 p.m. July 31, two men hurried into the Kay Jewelers store. With customers present, they rushed a manager, knocked him to the ground and began stomping him as he lay on the floor.
That manager later testified that when the men were done, he was left with two broken bones — his left leg below the knee, and one rib — plus a dislocated ankle, chipped teeth and cuts to his face and ear.
He spent five days in the hospital, later had surgery, and estimated he lost work for three months as a result. He no longer works at that store, he said.
On Aug. 17, one of the men charged in the attack, Anthony Lovell Miller Jr., got a 10-year sentence, which will be suspended after he serves three.
Miller, 32, was at first charged with aggravated malicious wounding, an offense that in Virginia carries up to life in prison, but his offense was reduced to straight malicious wounding by Judge William Broadhurst, who convicted Miller at a Jan. 31 bench trial.
Although given a court-appointed attorney, Miller — not a lawyer — chose to represent himself in court. But in a letter this week seeking to appeal his conviction, he acknowledged “self-representation was a mistake and was not in my best interest. Going [pro se] in a case of this magnitude, without proper knowledge of the legal system, proved to be my ultimate downfall.”
Testimony during the January trial sketched out the basic circumstances:
Jewelry store manager Ryan Pimlott said in court that a few hours before the attack, he’d had a public and vocal disagreement with another mall employee, a woman who is Miller’s girlfriend, and he had called security for assistance.
Two hours later, Pimlott was helping a couple shop for wedding rings when he saw a stranger rushing toward him with a raised fist.
He said in court he was unable to remember much else, and he had not realized that another person also took part. But on cross-examination by Miller, he named Miller as the assailant: “I definitely saw you attack me.”
One of the customers Pimlott had been helping when the ambush began also testified.
“The gentleman just started laying into him,” the shopper told the court. “We watched the whole thing unfold. We saw a second gentleman come up and join in.
“It got to a point where both gentlemen had Mr. Ryan on the ground and they were stomping and kicking and that was pretty much hardcore.”
He, too, named Miller as one of the attackers: “I tend to get shaky when I’m in a jewelry store now, but I won’t forget a face. ... Without a doubt, 100%.”
Three Roanoke investigators called as witnesses said Miller was developed as a suspect as a result of the earlier conflict between Pimlott and Miller’s girlfriend.
They allowed that security camera footage of the two suspects was inconclusive regarding his facial details, but also said it depicted a cap, shirt and ripped jeans that matched clothing found in a search of Miller’s house.
Although Miller told police he had been in North Carolina the day of the attack, part of the trial involved triangulation technology that pinpointed Miller’s cellphone as being at the jewelry store’s coordinates at the precise time of the assault.
Broadhurst acknowledged Miller’s argument that the security footage and the clothing was insufficient evidence, but he said he was persuaded by the phone mapping and the eyewitness testimony. He also ruled that malicious wounding was a more appropriate charge for the attack.
Miller’s hearing this month was something of a re-do: He had been in the process of being sentenced July 7 when he called a recess, left the courtroom and did not return. He was later taken back into custody for an Aug. 17 sentencing.
“This was a brutal beating,” Roanoke assistant prosecutor John McNeil said at the most recent hearing. Citing the public nature of the attack, he asked for a four-year term: “Regardless of what led up to it or caused it ... it was essentially life-changing.”
Judge Onzlee Ware gave Miller three years to serve, the midpoint of sentencing guidelines, and ordered that he receive court-appointed counsel for his appeal.
The identity of the second attacker remains unclear.
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