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Accused human trafficker released without bail

Thomas Miller's case is the latest to be criticized. After Pineville police arrested him for "unspeakable violent acts," a judge granted him alternative release.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A man accused of forcing a woman to have sex with random men and physically and mentally abusing her is out of jail without posting bail, much to the disappointment of police and a sex trafficking advocate.

Court records show a judge okayed the decision not long after Pineville police arrested Thomas Antoine Miller last Friday. Miller faces charges of human trafficking, sexual servitude, assault by strangulation, assault on a child under 12, assault on a female and communicating threats, according to the Pineville Police Department.

"We would have preferred Mr. Miller remain behind bars due to the seriousness of these charges, however, we also understand that we do not have any control over the decision to release Mr. Miller back into society," Lt. Corey Copley said. 

"Our position will be to continuing monitoring Mr. Thomas Miller during his daily activities and we will enforce the law accordingly should he re-offend. Meanwhile, we and our victim will await our day in court with Mr. Thomas Miller. Whether we agree or disagree with the decision to release him, we have to accept it and move forward. While moving forward, we are preparing to present the absolute best criminal case against Mr. Thomas Miller, and we feel confident justice will be served," he added.

According to police, the violence reportedly occurred in front of the victim's children.

"The victim was physically and mentally punished by Thomas Antoine Miller if she failed to meet a certain quota financially," police said. "The punishments range from verbal abuse to beatings with a belt, being held underwater/ice bath in a bathtub while being strangled, and burned/branded with a hot wire coat hanger. This violence was done in front of her two children and they were beaten as well with a belt at times."
The allegations alone are enough to make Tammy Harris cringe.

"It just amazes me to the extent of how inhumane a person can be," the Ursus Institute founder said. "It's inhumane torture to another individual and I just don't think society is taking this seriously enough."

The sex trafficking advocate was even more stunned to learn Miller walked out of jail earlier this week without paying a dime.

"That is just preposterous," she said. "Why do we think he won't strike again, go somewhere else, move somewhere else? How long is it going to take before we realize how severe human trafficking is in our area and the precautions we need to take as a society to protect our women and children? I don't think that letting someone like this walk free is showing how serious it really is."

Records show a court assessment flagged Miller as a risk to re-offend (three out of six) and an even higher risk of failing to show up for court (four out of six), but not enough to recommend a secure bond. A judge ultimately signed off on alternative release, placing him under the supervision of Mecklenburg County Pretrial Services, but without electronic monitoring.

"By in large, people in the pretrial phase do well," Program Manager Jessica Ireland said. "A lot of what we do is we monitor the defendant while they're in the community and when they're non-compliant we take swift action."

She said generally, the level of monitoring depends on a defendant's risk. The agency uses everything from in-person office visits, phone calls, criminal history checks, and text reminders to make sure defendants don't re-offend or flee while awaiting trial.

"Public safety is certainly foremost in our mind as well," Ireland said. "I think we share a lot of the same values as the community."

According to the county, Pretrial Services public safety rate so far this year is 81.80%, while its court appearance rate is at 95.48%, slightly down from 97.62% all of last year.

Miller's case is just the latest to receive criticism. Mecklenburg County implemented a new bail policy several months ago that saves cash bail for the highest risk defendants.

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