06/02/2006

Online chat with 'girl' costs Ga. sergeant his job

YOLANDA RODRIGUEZ
Copyright 2006 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

The online conversation with the girl started innocently enough, with questions about hobbies and where she lived. But they quickly descended into explicit inquiries about her body and modeling clothes, crossing a line and leading a Cobb County sheriff's sergeant to resign, authorities said.

Tod C. Miller, a 21-year-veteran of the sheriff's department, quit last month after being confronted with transcripts of Internet conversations he had with someone he thought was a 14-year-old Warner Robins girl, according to a sheriff's office internal affairs summary released by the department in response to a public records request.

The other person online was a Houston County sheriff's investigator.

Miller told Cobb sheriff's internal affairs investigators on April 27 that he had chatted on the Internet with three people who identified themselves as juveniles, according to transcripts of the interview released by the department.

"Obviously I made a mistake this time, um, I just kind of go with it and play around," Miller told investigators, describing the chat room conversations as "entertainment."

Miller could not be reached for comment.

On the other side of those online conversations was Sgt. Darin Meadows, in the juvenile division of the Houston County sheriff's office.

"It makes you sad that someone in that capacity would do something like that," he said in an interview.

Meadows began an investigation of Miller and notified Cobb officials about the conversations in a general-access "Georgia" chat room of America Online.

According to reports filed by Meadows, the series of conversations took place in March. In his AOL profile, Miller, who worked at the Cobb County jail, said he was in law enforcement, Meadows said.

Miller, 42, used the screen name "Sgtmill." In more than one conversation, he asked sexually explicit questions, once suggesting going to Warner Robins to take the girl shopping and to a rented room.

The conversations were "sexual in nature," Meadows said in an interview. Later "he talked about taking the victim shopping for lingerie and taking her to a motel to model," Meadows said.

Meadows, who has been doing undercover Internet investigations for about eight years, said he did not pursue criminal charges against Miller because he never arranged a meeting.

"We don't normally pursue people just for sexually explicit conversations," Meadows said.

Although a law prohibits obscene Internet conversations with a child, "if all we did was arrest people who said something nasty to a minor, we would have hundreds and thousands of cases of nothing but that. We try to pursue more serious cases, when someone is targeting a child or there is some overt act," such as meeting the child or sending pornography, Meadows said.

He wasn't surprised that his investigation led him to a law enforcement officer. His other investigations, about 50, have led him to police officers, firefighters, doctors, husbands and wives, Meadows said.

Meadows said he confirmed that Miller was a law enforcement officer and contacted the Cobb sheriff's office, which began an investigation April 25.

Two days later, after his interview with investigators, Miller was given the option of resigning or facing a disciplinary hearing, according to the internal affairs summary. Miller resigned 45 minutes after his interview was over. 
 
June 1, 2006

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