Midwife reports to jail for

The Plain Dealer, Mar. 1,5 2003
John Horton, Plain Dealer Reporter

Millersburg- Midwife Freida Miller took her secret to jail yesterday.

Surrounded by dozens of supporters, Miller turned herself in at the Holmes County Jail to begin what could be a 97-day stay for contempt of court. Miller, 48, of Berlin Township will remain incarcerated unless she tells who gave her the drugs that she illegally used to treat a patient.

Miller maintained her composure as she worked her way to the jail doors, stopping every few steps to hug friends lining the sidewalk. She accepted a bouquet and hand-drawn cards from children she had welcomed into the world. Some of those assembled sang hymns.

“It’s not fair,” said Blayne Murray, 42, of Cleveland Heights, as she put her arms around Miller.

“It’s going to be OK,” Miller assured her.

This is Miller’s second trip to jail. She served 55 days last fall before being released on bond pending an appeal of her contempt conviction by Common Pleas Judge Thomas White. Last week, an appeals court backed White’s decision, and White ordered Miller to report back to jail.

Chris Matthews bemoaned the legal system.

“They’re wasting taxpayer money holding someone like her,” said Matthews, who had Miller deliver three of her four children. “This is an issue of the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law. It’s ridiculous.”

But Assistant County Prosecutor Stephen Knowling said Miller has to answer for her refusal to obey a judge’s order and answer questions before the grand jury. Nobody is above the law, he said.

“She’ll either see the light and talk or stay in jail,” he said.

Knowling said it’s important to find who gave Miller the prescription drugs because such action puts the public at risk.

Miller could be called to testify before another grand jury after the current one is dismissed June 18, her release date. She could be sent back to jail if she again refuses to name her source for the prescription drugs. Knowling wouldn’t say whether the case would be pursued then.

Miller, who is Mennonite, said her religious beliefs prohibit her from providing the name and causing someone trouble.

The midwife pleaded guilty in May to attempted unauthorized practice of medicine and two counts of possession of dangerous drugs for administering Pitocin and Methergine to a client after she delivered a baby girl on Dec. 17, 2001. Miller had been indicted in March 2002 on three felony charges, which were reduced as part of her plea agreement with prosecutors.

Some described the prosecutions’ “zealous pursuit” of Miller and her prescription drug source as a witch hunt initiated by the state’s medical community to intimidate midwives. The case against Miller is the first of its kind in the state.

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