ANNAPOLIS – Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Thursday denied punching a man in the face, after a Prince George’s County district court judge issued a summons for Miller to appear on second-degree assault charges for the alleged incident.
Leo Bruso, a developer in the county, claimed in a criminal complaint filed Wednesday that Miller hit him in the jaw with his right fist earlier that afternoon at a land-use hearing at the Prince George’s County Council chamber.
Lisa McMurray, communications director for Miller, D-Calvert and Prince George’s, said Miller flatly denied the incident took place. “Mr. Bruso’s allegations are totally without merit and are not true,” she wrote in a statement.
The summons requires Miller to appear before District Court Judge Thurman H. Rhodes on Oct. 26 to answer charges of the misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
Bruso did not return phone calls Thursday, but The Washington Post quoted him as saying the incident “was totally uncalled for.”
In the charging documents, Bruso wrote, “I did nothing to provoke this attack. Apparently my political positions offend him.”
Miller, however, disputed that the alleged altercation even happened. “These allegations appear to be motivated by Mr. Bruso’s political animosity toward Senator Miller and his support of Senator Miller’s opponent in the upcoming election,” McMurray wrote.
A witness, whose name was provided to reporters by Miller’s office, supported the senator’s position Thursday, saying he witnessed the interaction between the two men and that it fell far short of a violent attack.
“I think Senator Miller has been unjustly demonized,” said Yates Clagett, administrator of the land preservation programs for the county. “I saw the whole thing and I can dispute this.”
Clagett said he was seated about 15 feet from where Bruso was standing in the back of the room when the exchange occurred. He said Miller, who had testified at the hearing that morning, was greeting people as he left and grabbed Bruso’s arm “in a friendly gesture of saying goodbye.”
Miller then placed his fist on Bruso’s cheek, Clagett said. “It wasn’t a hit, it wasn’t a slug. It was just a friendly gesture… There was absolutely no malicious intent at all that I could see,” he said.
Clagett said Bruso then swung at and hit Miller, “because I saw Senator Miller’s head fall back a little bit.” “Senator Miller was the one who was assaulted,” Clagett said. “If I was Senator Miller, I’d be filing a complaint against Mr. Bruso.”