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Based upon a state hospital evaluation, a judge accepted pleas of not guilty by reason of lack of criminal responsibility for the man accused of attacking a Bismarck police officer last fall. 

South Central District Judge Bruce Haskell accepted the pleas as an Alford plea from Donald Miller, who appeared Thursday morning in a Burleigh County courtroom on felony charges of robbery and simple assault on a peace officer. The Alford plea essentially means Miller maintains he is not guilty but acknowledges the evidence likely to convict him.

Defense attorney Tom Glass and prosecutor Julie Lawyer said the state hospital evaluation found Miller lacked criminal responsibility, from which Lawyer said he could be committed for as many as 10 years, with his course of treatment to be determined upon examination.

“The defendant was evaluated by a doctor at the North Dakota State Hospital whose conclusion was that the defendant was so impaired by a mental condition as to lack substantial capacity to comprehend the harmful nature of his conduct,” she told Haskell.

Miller, 52, is accused of attacking Bismarck Police Officer Justin Antonovich on Oct. 15 at the Bismarck Motor Motel, where police say Miller tried to wrest control of his squad car while punching the officer and gouging his eyes.

The officer, who did sustain an eye injury, shot Miller once in the abdomen to end the attack after trying to fight back. Burleigh County State’s Attorney Richard Riha later found him justified in the shooting.

In answering Haskell's questions relating to his change of plea, Miller appeared to deny he could have attacked the officer and described his charges as "ridiculous."

“Would it be a professional doctor that would tell them I have artificial joints and there’s no way that I could have held that officer in a headlock because I have artificial shoulders and artificial hips, and there’s no way that I could have beaten him up within an inch of his life to make him so scared that he would have to shoot me with a gun in order to restrain me?” Miller said.

Haskell then asked Glass if he believed a jury could find Miller guilty at trial. Glass said yes, adding that he’s seen videos and reports of the attack and does not dispute the case’s affidavit.

“The entire altercation was on video, was able to be observed,” Lawyer said.

Haskell also waived Miller’s court fines and fees. He has been held at the Burleigh-Morton County Detention Center since October.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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Crime and Courts Reporter