BY MICHAEL RICONDA
Brian Miele, the former Ramapo School official and Hillburn mayor who stood accused of falsifying teacher credentials to net his family and associates higher salaries, pled guilty on May 29. However, he did so while facing a considerably lighter sentence than he had at his indictment.
Miele, 61, was convicted of three misdemeanor counts of second-degree offering a false instrument for filing. He initially faced 187 felony counts, including 95 counts of grand larceny, 87 counts of falsifying business records and 5 counts of offering a false instrument. If convicted, he faced 25 years in prison
Most of the counts were invalidated due to improper police procedure. According to Justice William Kelly, police failed to read Miele his Miranda rights, improperly refused him access to an attorney even after he requested one, coaxed him into incriminating himself and threatened to arrest his family.
“None of the factors that constitute a voluntary statement were present,” Kelly wrote in his decision.
Hence, Kelly concluded the police statements were inadmissible and threw out all but three. In exchange for a guilty plea on the last three party, Miele will go through a conditional discharge, give up his administrator’s license and pay a $50,000 penalty.
Miele was arrested in March 2011 after he was accused of doctoring records to falsely show teachers had received certifications and educational credits which they had not actually earned. The falsifications included pay bumps for Miele’s wife and daughter-both of whom are teachers-and cost Ramapo taxpayers $2.6 million.
Due to scant evidence of fraud and the inadmissibility of police statements, prosecutors had substantial difficulty with the case. It began as a potential conspiracy case, but after interviewing more than 70 teachers and administrators, the District Attorney’s office concluded Miele acted alone.
The sudden shift in position placed prosecutors in a difficult position, scrambling for a new theory as they defended accusations that they were trying to salvage a case with no criminal intent. According to Miele’s defense attorney Gerald Damiani, Miele did approve the credits, but did not know the approval was illegal.