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Delayed prosecution frustrates alleged victim in case against former Seminole State regent

It has been nearly four years since then-Seminole State College Regent Jeffrey Lee Miller was charged with assault and battery in allegedly punching a woman in the face during 2010 Halloween party at the McAlester Country Club. The case has yet to come to trial.
by Randy Ellis Published: September 2, 2014

McALESTER — It has been nearly four years since then-Seminole State College Regent Jeff Miller was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery for allegedly punching a woman in the face during a 2010 Halloween party at the McAlester Country Club.

The criminal case has yet to come to trial.

“It’s disappointing. I’m disappointed in the system,” said Christy Mercer, the alleged victim. “It’s not working for me when I need it.”

Mercer said she suffered a concussion from the blow, which left her with an orbital fracture to the left eye socket. She said the punch also left her disfigured, with one eyebrow higher than the other — a condition for which she continues to receive regular Botox treatments for cosmetic purposes.

Mercer said she doesn’t want the same thing to happen to other women and has pleaded repeatedly with prosecutors to take the case to trial — so far without success.

“It’s the good ol’ boy thing,” Mercer said, blaming many of the delays on Miller’s wealth and influence.

“Mr. Miller is a very wealthy man,” she said of the former regent who is president of Choctaw Gas Co. in Quinton.

Miller, 53, did not return telephone calls to his office. He was allowed to complete his term as a regent before being replaced at the end of June 2013.

University officials were aware of the criminal charge, but Seminole State College President Jim Utterback said back in January 2011 that Miller was a good regent and he knew of no law that would restrict him from serving on the board — even if he were to be found guilty.

Mercer’s husband, McAlester Attorney Tod Mercer, questioned the double standard of a higher education system in which freshman University of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon gets suspended from the football team for a year for punching a woman, but a regent is allowed to finish out his term while his trial gets repeatedly postponed.

“Why should Joe Mixon be kicked off the football team and Jeffrey Miller, a grown man, gets to stay on the state regent team?” Tod Mercer asked.

Warren Gotcher, Miller’s attorney, said he was not responsible for the trial delays.

“I’m just a lawyer in this. I can’t do anything,” he said.

The punch

Christy Mercer said she didn’t really know Miller and was caught off guard when he tapped her on the shoulder and called her an obscenity. She said she told him to leave her alone and he responded by punching her in the eye, grabbing her by the throat and shoulder, and trying to throw her to the ground.

Tod Mercer said Miller apparently was responding to an earlier incident in which his wife and another woman had gotten into a verbal argument after the woman had blocked the driveway of their home with a golf cart.

Gotcher said what happened at the country club Halloween Party is “highly disputed,” but declined to discuss his client’s version.

Misdemeanor assault and battery carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in the county jail and a $1,000 fine.

Prosecutorial delays

Tod and Christy Mercer acknowledge that Tod’s status as a McAlester attorney and familiarity with prosecutors and judges in the Pittsburg County courthouse played a role in some of the early prosecution delays.

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by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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