June 19th, 2024

Robert Miller too sick to defend himself against Montreal sex charges: lawyers

By Joe Bongiorno, The Canadian Press on June 5, 2024.

Lawyers defending billionaire businessman Robert Miller have filed an application for a stay of proceedings to stop him from having to appear in criminal court next month. Quebec Superior Court is seen in Montreal, Wednesday, March 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL – Lawyers defending Quebec billionaire businessman Robert Miller against sex crime charges have filed an application for a stay of proceedings, saying he is too sick to appear in court.

The founder of global electronics distributor Future Electronics was arrested last week on 21 sex charges involving 10 complainants, many of whom were minors when the alleged offences occurred between 1994 and 2016. One of the alleged victims was under the age of 14.

The application says Miller, 80, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1996 and is now in the most advanced stage of the disease. It says the illness has left him in “an extremely frail condition,” bedridden since 2022 and unable to bathe or feed himself.

The lawyers argue participating in the criminal trial would violate Miller’s rights to be presumed innocent and to receive a fair trial because he will never be able to defend himself.

Citing the medical evaluation of Miller’s physicians, the application says appearing in court would cause significant harm to his deteriorating health, possibly putting his life in danger. One of the doctors concludes Miller is “medically unfit to engage in testimony, deposition or to travel,” according to the application.

“Holding a trial in the absence of an accused or where it would seriously endanger his life, or holding a trial in which the accused cannot testify, would cause serious and irremediable harm to the rights of the accused and to the integrity of the justice system,” says the application, submitted to the court this week.

Miller, who has denied the allegations, is facing charges including sexual assault, sexual interference, enticing a person to commit prostitution, sexual exploitation and sexual intercourse with a minor for consideration. He was arrested at his home in Westmount by Montreal police and is scheduled to appear in Quebec Superior Court in Montreal on July 3.

Police had opened an investigation into allegations against Miller in 2009, but at that time the province’s prosecution service decided not to proceed with charges.

Before being charged criminally he was already in court defending civil suits tied to the allegations, including a proposed class-action lawsuit.

In February, a Quebec judge ruled Miller could be questioned in the class-action suit before it is authorized, but only in writing. The lawyer for alleged victims in the case had asked to question Miller as soon as possible, citing fears the defendant could die before the case goes to trial.

Miller stepped down as chairman and CEO of Future Electronics in February 2023, saying he would focus on protecting his reputation amid reports by CBC and Radio-Canada that he allegedly committed sexual offences.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2024.

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