Friday, December 17, 2010

More Of The Joe Miller Mystery Solved

It's been nearly four months since news came that Joseph F. Miller, a prominent Indianapolis philanthropist for GLBT-related causes and the world's largest manufacturer of poppers, was found dead in his downtown home as the result of an apparent suicide. We heard stories about his business, Great Lakes Products, being raided by federal agents and closed and computers and other evidence being hauled away as evidence, but there remains no public confirmation of any official government action being taken against Miller or his businesses prior to his death. A new twist to Miller's death was added when former Pulitzer-prize winning reporter for the Indianapolis Star Dick Cady released his new book, Deadline: Indianapolis. Upon reading his book, I found a very interesting passage in Cady's book discussing Miller's relationship with former Marion Co. Prosecutor James Kelley.

Cady stumbled upon Miller while investigating Kelley's attendance at a pre-dawn party for gay men at which three of the attendees who worked at a local gay bar turned up dead in snowy field up in Hamilton Co. where their bodies had been dumped after they were shot to death. Kelley had come within the cross hairs of the Indianapolis Police Department after he set up a special unit in the prosecutor's office to investigate police corruption. When IPD investigators learned Kelley had been in attendance at the very party where the three murdered men had last been seen alive, naturally, the police wanted to learn more about Kelley's knowledge of what happened to the three men. As Cady explained in his book, a friend of the missing men, David Leigh Harrison, had gone to Kelley to advise him the men were missing. Kelley had instructed the young man on how to file a missing person's report but wanted his name left out of it. Cady learned Harrison had been questioned by IPD about Kelley and the murders after Myrta Pulliam, daughter of Star publisher Gene Pulliam, had summoned him to her house to meet with Harrison. As Cady described what Harrison told him:

At Myrta's house I met David Leigh Harrison, a thirty-one year old homosexual who was visibly frightened. Harrison's story was complicated, yet it had a simple point: He was caught between two powerful forces, IPD and Marion County Prosecutor Jim Kelley. Earlier that day, Harrison and several friends had been interrogated by CAT detectives, who wanted information about Kelley. Harrison said he didn't give much but thought his roommate, another homosexual named David Fairfield, known as Doris, gave a complete, tape-recorded statement.

My memory snapped back to a big news story last winter. Three young men, all employees of a homosexual bar, were found shot to death in a snowy field in neighboring Hamilton County. Although a former employee of the bar, Mikco Ball, had been arrested, there were unanswered questions.

Harrison knew all three victims. He knew them from gay bars and from the carriage house apartment two of them lived in the Woodruff Place section on the east side. All three had been at a pre-dawn party at the apartment the night before they disappeared. Jim Kelley and a man from his staff also were there, Harrison said.
Through Harrison's lead, Cady was led to a young Joseph F. Miller, who at the time served as the grand jury bailiff for Kelley's office. "Joseph F. Miller, a young bailiff for the grand jury, was a friend of Harrison's. Miller was known in the homosexual community as a chicken hawk, or someone who preferred boys and younger men, and he sold marijuana and a chemical known as poppers," Cady recounted. "Miller would tell us some very interesting stories later, in a confidential interview," Cady added. Cady's book does not detail what Miller told him during that confidential interview. Following an earlier blog post on Cady's book, I was informed I should look into an arrest record of Miller's in Johnson County during this time frame regarding allegations of molestation of underage boys by Miller in the Greenwood community. Another blogger, John Michael Vore, visited the Johnson County courthouse and searched for records of the arrest. Sure enough, Vore found the smoking gun. Cause No. 2-361C filed on March 20, 1977 charged Miller with sodomy for engaging in sex with two young males, ages 14 and 15 (the victims are named in the court records but out of respect to them I will omit their names here). Miller was arrested and released on a $10,000 bond, but the charges were later dropped on November 13, 1978 after Miller failed to show in court on two separate occasions. Vore became suspicious of the validity of the allegations against Miller given the perceived and, in many instances, discriminatory treatment of homosexuals in the criminal justice system during that period of time, and the fact that the salacious charges against Miller were ultimate dismissed.

After Vore passed along to me the information he discovered on Miller's arrest in Johnson County, I followed up with several other individuals to see if I could learn more about why those charges against Miller were dropped. As with many of these cases, parents of the victims are very concerned about the impact a public trial will have on their child and the potential embarrassment and lasting emotional impact on them. The parents of both victims did not want the case to go forward. One of the victim's family relocated to Oregon after the arrest took place, while the parents of the other victim feared the impact of the publicity on them and wanted the case to go away. I also learned separate charges had been filed against Miller in Marion County. The prosecutor assigned to the case was none other than Ann DeLaney, who was in charge of sex crimes within the prosecutor's office at the time. This explained to me why DeLaney, who would later become a close political confidante of Evan Bayh, would work to keep Miller's distance from Bayh when Miller would later emerge as one of the biggest political contributors to Indiana Democrats. Bayh refused to accept money from Miller, unlike other prominent Democrats, including former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, U.S. Rep. Baron Hill and former House Speaker Pat Bauer, who accepted contributions from him.

The most interesting information I learned from following up with sources concerning the Johnson Co. arrest was how it came about in the first place and the critical role Miller played as a witness in other ongoing investigations being undertaken by IPD at the time, particularly the investigation of Kelley mentioned by Cady in his book. It was a case of two separate cases converging in a way one could not have anticipated. IPD was investigating allegations an Indianapolis gay businessman, who held himself out as aiding runaway male youths in the Indianapolis area, had been sexually exploiting them by prostituting them out to adult men in the Indianapolis area through a service called "Rent A Man." Patrons of the service included some prominent local businessmen. Old newspaper stories from the period document the existence of that investigation. At the same time the "Rent A Man" investigation was under way, IPD investigators learned of the case in Greenwood involving the two youths Miller was later charged with sexually exploiting. When police brought Miller in for questioning and he learned of the serious jail time he could be facing, Miller in a matter of speaking began singing to the police.

Whatever loyalty Miller had to his boss, the Marion Co. prosecutor, quickly disappeared when faced with the possibility of hard time in prison himself. Perhaps what Miller told police is similar to the "very interesting stories" Miller told Cady during his confidential interview with him. Miller told police he had been introduced to Kelley for the purpose of providing sex to him. Miller told police he got his job as the grand jury bailiff in consideration for the sexual favors he provided to Kelley. Miller gave police a graphic description of his sexual encounters with Kelley. He told them Kelley liked to treat him like a sex slave he had purchased at a Greek auction. Miller said Kelley's proclivity toward S&M personally turned him off and he sometimes got too rough for his personal taste. Kelley treated Miller to sex-filled trips to places like Washington, D.C., New York and Montreal. Miller furnished police with records of hotels bills, plane tickets and other expenses related to the trips he took with Kelley. He gave them personal notes Kelley had sent him which suggested much more than the typical employer-employee relationship. Miller was questioned about whether grand jury transcripts were being illegally sold, but he could offer police no evidence this was occurring. More importantly, Miller signed a sworn statement. Police also had Miller examined by a respected polygraph examiner and he passed with flying colors.

To put it bluntly, Indianapolis police had Kelley's nuts in a vice with Miller's testimony. As with so many investigations involving public corruption in Indianapolis, however, there would be a series of twists and turns that would ensure the truth of what laid below the surface would never see the light of day. Miller would later recant his sworn statement, saying he only told those things about Kelley because of the enormous pressure police exerted on him, threatening him with a long time in jail. The Kelley investigation would ultimately be dropped. A lead investigator would resign in protest. Kelley would agree not to seek re-election as prosecutor in 1978, paving the way for a match-up between Andy Jacobs, Sr. and Steve Goldsmith, a race Goldsmith would eventually win and that would propel him into the mayor's office in 1991. One of Miller's friends, a chemist at Eli Lilly who spirited amyl nitrates out the back door for Miller to sell for a profit would lose his job and be charged with sex crimes. Miller would go on to use the formula he acquired from the friendly chemist to make a fortune manufacturing and selling amyl nitrates known as poppers as a recreational drug inhalant.

The Eli Lilly connection to the Miller mystery is indeed a fascinating one. When HIV/AIDS was first discovered a few years later, many medical researchers initially believed poppers were the cause of the deadly disease that inflicted so many gay men because something virtually all of the early victims had in common was their prolific use of poppers while engaging in homosexual sex. That would be the subject of a conspiracy theory but for the fact that Lilly, to the best of my knowledge, has never researched or marketed drugs to treat HIV/AIDS, a niche that has become a multi-billion dollar industry for other pharmaceutical giants that compete with Lilly. Poppers would raise their ugly head again though when Pfizer first introduced its erectile dysfunction drug, Viagra. As gay men began combining the use of Viagra with the recreational use of poppers, a number experienced sudden death resulting from a serious drop in blood pressure. Lilly later developed its own male enhancement drug, Cialis, to compete with Viagra. Interestingly, Miller's old friend former Mayor Bart Peterson, is now Vice-President of Corporate Affairs and Communications for Lilly. As mayor, Peterson not only accepted Miller's campaign contributions, he also appointed him to the Equal Employment Opportunity board. He also attended a memorial service in Miller's honor following his death.

Last year, the Indiana Stonewall Democrats presented Miller with an award for his years of service to the gay community at an event hosted at the home of Indianapolis City-County Councilor Jackie Nytes, which was co-hosted by a number of Democratic luminaries, including former Secretary of State Joe Hogsett, who has since become U.S. Attorney for the southern district of Indiana, and Terry Curry, the incoming prosecutor of Marion County. Curry has named former Marion Co. Prosecutor James Kelley's chief trial deputy, David Rimstidt, as his own chief trial deputy.

From what I gathered from my investigation of the James Kelley-Joe Miller saga, I have reached the conclusion the face of Indiana and Indianapolis politics was forever changed because the investigations into the matters involving these two men ended prematurely. The professional reputations and political careers of some very influential individuals were allowed to be kept intact because those investigations were buried. The man ultimately convicted of killing those three gay men, Mikco Ball, may or may not have been responsible for their deaths. I did not learn any additional information that resolved the doubts Dick Cady shared in his book about his culpability for their deaths. And I still don't have answers as to why Miller's business was raided in late August and he chose to end his life. Those are mysteries that will have to be solved at a later time, if ever.


Guest said...

Excellent reporting on this.

John Michael Vore said...

While I'm in some awe about your reporting here, Gary, the problem with claiming Miller's August 1977 arrest for underage sodomy undid James F. Kelley is the calendar: Kelely had already been replaced by Andy Jacobs, Sr. in May, 1977, as the next Democratic nominee for Marion County Prosecutor, an office which would be filled via election in November, 1977. The 1977 arrests of Miller served only to heighten anxiety about the "gay-drenched homosexual monster party" of Democrats, including Senator Birch Bayh, who had run for President in 1976 as a pro-gay Democrat. While Miller's earlier 1976 arrests might have been "re-engineered" to hurt Kelley, the August, 1977 sodomy arrest in Johnson County could not have been the "silver bullet." This is explored more in Hoosier Hysteria 8: Inferences.

John Michael Vore said...

This account dovetails perfectly with my own research on this. In fact, a Republican strategy in 1977 seems almost grabbed from today's headlines. Though the "homosexual monster myth" is less potent today, it still works for many constituents, as explored in Hoosier Hysteria 8: Inferences.