1. Archive

Test finally bolsters man's paternity defense

George Miller, who can neither hear nor speak, has been trying for years to convince state social workers that he isn't the father of a little girl. Almost no one would listen.

Now, after paying child support for most of the past 14 years, Miller may have finally proven his point, his attorney said. A recently completed blood test shows that it is extremely unlikely that the Jacksonville postal worker is the father of a St. Petersburg girl, his attorney says.

"It was brutal," said Paul Levine, Miller's attorney in Clearwater. "This has definitely been one of the more frustrating cases I have ever handled. He couldn't convey to a judge that he wanted a blood test. Had he not been a deaf-mute, he would have been able to better communicate with the court and the court would have realized he wanted a blood test."

Next week, Miller is scheduled to appear before a judge, hoping that his lengthy legal dilemma has finally come to an end.

"It's not fair for the kid," said Nyjola Grybauskas, one of the attorneys who has handled the case for the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS). "Just think what it's doing to her. The kid needs a father. I would think it's devastating."

On Thursday, HRS sent Levine a copy of blood test results that "exclude" Miller as the father of the girl, now 14. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Monday before Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Catherine Harlan.

Levine said he took Miller's case about four years ago. Miller, who lived in St. Petersburg, didn't have much money, but Levine was sympathetic. He agreed to fight HRS for about $400, a fraction of what it cost him to handle the case, Levine said.

"We spent hours together," Levine said. "I felt so bad for him. . . . The case was so intriguing. I kept hitting closed doors with the system."

Miller had been paying child support on and off since 1977. He did not marry the girl's mother, but Miller indicated to Levine that he had loved her and assumed he was the father of the child.

In 1985, after the girl's mother died, Miller learned from friends that the woman had had an affair in the mid-1970s, Levine said.

Miller decided to have a blood test. Grybauskas, who was representing HRS, fought back.

A judge already had ruled that Miller was the father, Grybauskas said. The request was coming years after the ruling.

At a hearing to increase his child support payments, Miller sought permission from Grybauskas to have a blood test, Levine said. She responded that it was too late, according to court records. Levine said Miller "didn't have the presence of mind" to ask a judge for the test.

So late in 1986 Miller sought Levine's help. The attorney agreed to take the case, and in October 1988, finally convinced a judge to reopen it.

In his ruling, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge John T. Ware said Miller had never been given the opportunity to formally request a blood test because he had never had an interpreter to fully convey his thoughts.

It took two more years before Miller got the blood test results, partly because he had moved to Jacksonville, where he lives with a wife and three children.

On Thursday, Levine got a copy of the results.

"George Miller is excluded as the biological father of the child," the report said.

Levine said Miller will be pleased. He hardly knows the girl state officials said he fathered, Levine said.

Grybauskas, however, said the 14-year-old girl may be hurt by the news.

"You can't come back . . . now that the mother is dead and say, "I want a blood test,' " she said. "You don't pay for the child if the child is not yours to begin with. . . . Now they'll never prove parentage for the kid."

Levine disagrees.

""He was trying to comply with the court order," he said, "and did not have what it takes to fight the matter being a deaf-mute."

Miller's troubles aren't over. Internal Revenue Service officials have placed a lien on his income tax refund because he fell behind in child support payments. They say Miller owed $5,500; he claims it was about $2,200.

Levine said the blood test results make the matter moot.

"This poor guy," Levine said. "Now I've got to fight the IRS. That's my next battle."