April 20, 2001 (CAMBRIDGE, Mass) – A Massachusetts appeals court says that the judge who sentenced a retired police officer to two decades in prison appeared to have allowed his distaste for the defendant to impair his ability to be impartial.
James O. Mills, a former member of the Boston Police Department working as a private investigator, was caught up in a scandal involving a court clerk who sent criminal cases to certain public defenders. Prosecutors said that Mills, allegedly working for the lawyers, billed the state for work that he did not carry out, and he was convicted in 1996 of five counts of larceny.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Connolly imposed an 18- to 20-year prison term, saying it was justified because Mills was a “common and notorious thief.” The appeals panel voided three of the five larceny convictions, finding that the evidence was faulty, and ordered that another judge sentence Mills on the remaining convictions.
Mills’ lawyer says that his sentence was “way out of line” and longer than those imposed on any of the other defendants, including the court clerk who orchestrated the fraud.