A District Court judge found a man guilty Tuesday of having unwanted sexual contact with a woman at a Gastonia department store.
Robert Lee Miller, 40, was convicted of sexual battery following a bench trial that lasted less than two days. He will spend 75 days in jail and must register as a sex offender for 30 years.
It was the harshest penalty possible for the charge he faced.
“We’re thankful justice is served,” Miller’s accuser said after the verdict, which was handed down by District Court Judge Pennie Thrower.
Miller’s attorney, Travis Page, asked for leniency because of post-traumatic stress his client suffered after tours in Afghanistan and Iraq while with the U.S. Marines.
Miller’s behavior doesn’t stem from sexual deviancy, but a need to find thrills, Page said, citing Miller’s psychologist.
Miller was convicted of disorderly conduct in Onslow County in 2003, stemming from an incident in which he took inappropriate photos of women in a tanning salon. He was convicted of misdemeanor secret peeping in 2012 after trying to take pictures of a 12-year-old girl inside a dressing room at a Huntersville Target.
Thrower banned Miller from ever returning to the store where the crime occurred or making contact with his accuser, who said she still thinks about the Jan. 28, 2018, incident every time she goes shopping.
On that day, the woman went with her mother to the TJ Maxx on Cox Road. She separated from her company to take a phone call from her husband.
It was at that point Miller committed a sex act near the store’s pet aisle, using a blanket to cover his private area. Analysts from the State Crime Lab concluded the act left semen on the woman’s sweater, and that the stain matched Miller’s DNA.
Miller, who was in the store approximately 50 minutes, then rushed out of the store and drove off. He turned himself into the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office 11 days after the incident.
The accuser testified during the trial, as did a woman who witnessed part of the incident, multiple Gastonia Police officers, and two employees with the State Crime Lab.
Miller, who previously asked for his trial to be delayed so he could go on a family vacation, wanted his sentence delayed.
That request was denied, and bailiffs led him into the Gaston County Jail in handcuffs.
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