A case against a Craig doctor who faces three felony charges stemming from a domestic violence dispute with his wife will head to district court after he waived his right to a preliminary hearing.
Craig police initially charged Dr. Joel Miller with a misdemeanor third-degree assault for a Jan. 16 incident in which he allegedly attacked and strangled his wife, Peggy.
But, upon reviewing evidence of the alleged incident, the District Attorney's Office increased the charges against Miller. He now faces a Class 4 felony count of second-degree domestic violence and a Class 6 felony count of menacing with a real or simulated weapon. Miller also faces another felony charge on a bond violation stemming from the domestic violence charges.
Miller has been a doctor at the Craig Medical Center for about two years.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Amy Fitch said she couldn't speak directly about the case. But District Attorney Bonnie Roesink's action to increase the severity of the domestic violence charges and their potential penalties was the right thing to do after reviewing the case, Fitch said. Miller could face from three to 18 years in prison for the domestic violence charges.
"This clearly was the appropriate thing to do," Fitch said.
According to court documents, Peggy and Joel Miller got into a fight when Joel decided to drink a glass of wine. The couple has been married about two years. Peggy told police the couple had agreed not to drink alcohol together because it caused them to fight. Peggy said she took the glass from Joel's hand, dropped it and took off his eyeglasses and broke them. Peggy then said that the two started throwing pieces of the broken glass at each other. After that, she told police that Joel "became very angry and grabbed her by the throat with both hands, strangling her." Peggy told police that she estimated Joel held his hands around her neck for 30 seconds -- long enough that she "was having trouble breathing." Peggy said Joel said that he would kill her.
After she called the police, Joel woke up Peggy's two teenage children. One of the children told police that Joel had treated their mother badly in the past and that police had been called on another (domestic violence) incident in the past two weeks in Steamboat Springs. During the police interview, Peggy also told police that on other occasions Joel was verbally abusive to her when he had been drinking alcohol. Peggy said Joel would say that "she is not pretty, that she is not smart, that she is nothing to him, and that she and her kids wouldn't have anything if not for him," according to the report.
Miller received his Colorado medical license in July 1994, which is set to expire at the end of May. The Colorado medical board's Department of Regulatory Agencies reports that Miller has a clean record.
Susan Miller, program administrator for the Colorado Board of Medical Examiners, said that doctors who are charged with a crime aren't required to report the charge to the agency. However, they must report any criminal convictions, she said.
Susan Miller said that the board then investigates what action it will take, if any, upon learning of a conviction. She said the board tries to determine the underlying conduct of a doctor's conviction and whether it may pose a threat to patients' safety.
Penalties can include a warning letter to the doctor, a public reprimand or revocation of a medical license.
Susan Miller declined to say whether the board was aware of the charges against Joel Miller.
Public Relations Director Pam Thompson of The Memorial Hospital said that Miller has privileges at the hospital.
That means the doctor can practice on his patients if they are admitted to the hospital.
Thompson said that hospital officials are aware that Miller has been charged, but officials are awaiting the outcome of the court process to determine whether the status of those privileges will change.