A former Marine from Southern California was convicted in 2012 for possession of a machine gun that he smuggled back into the states following a 14-month tour in Iraq, and now, after serving nine months in jail, his conviction has been overturned.
Joel Cleve Miller, 42, won over an appeals court and was released from jail after only serving 9 months of his two-year sentence. Miller was convicted of smuggling in a chrome-plated AK47 that supposedly belonged to a guard at Saddam Hussein’s palace. Miller’s conviction was overturned on the grounds that he should have been able to present testimony to back up his allegations that another Marine framed him.
According to Miller, fellow marine Christopher Bruce was having an affair with Miller’s former wife Melissa, and when Miller threatened to reveal the affair, which is considered to be a military crime, Bruce planted the gun on Miller to prevent him from reporting the adultery to military authorities.
Miller was indicted in 2010 by a federal grand jury on three possession charges, but in the end, he was only convicted of possessing the gun that allegedly came from Saddam Hussein’s palace. An appellate court now says that it had no choice but to release Miller from prison because he didn’t get a fair chance to present testimony supporting claims that he was framed.
“The district court abused its discretion by precluding Miller from calling two witnesses to testify about their alleged extramarital affair,” wrote the court in the decision. “Their testimony about the affair would have corroborated Miller’s testimony and bolstered his defense that he was framed in retaliation for threatening to report the alleged affair to military authorities.”
The gun was seized from Miller’s possession in 2007 when his ex-wife filed for divorce and reported it to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives so that they would remove his weapons from their home. Miller alleges that earlier, Bruce had asked him to hold the gun, along with others, while he was going through marital problems, and that the report from his wife was all a part of the scheme to get him in trouble.
Miller served in the military for over 20 years and was discharged from the Marines for “bad conduct” that was unrelated to the incident with the gun.