George Miller paid child support for many of the last 13 years, but on Monday a judge confirmed what Miller suspected: He's not the father of a 14-year-old girl. Miller "was very relieved that the case has finally come to an end," Clearwater lawyer Paul Levine said Miller told him through a family member. "He was very concerned about the child. He hasn't seen her in years."
Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Catherine Harlan's ruling that Miller is not the father of the St. Petersburg girl came after she reviewed blood test results that exclude Miller as the father of the girl.
Attorneys for the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS), which fought Miller's request for a blood test, said they will not challenge the results.
"All we can really tell you is a final judgment of paternity was entered some years ago," said Victoria MacIntosh, who represented HRS at the hearing Monday. "A judgment is a judgment. At the same time, we cannot dispute the test."
Miller, who can neither hear nor speak, has paid child support on and off since a judge ruled in 1977 that he was the father of the child. Miller was the woman's boyfriend and assumed that he was the father.
But in 1985, after the girl's mother died, Miller learned that the woman had dated another man, Levine said. Miller decided he wanted a blood test.
But attorneys for HRS argued that a judge already had made a decision, and it was too late to challenge the original ruling.
In 1986, Miller asked for Levine's help. In October 1988, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge John T. Ware reopened the case, saying Miller never had been given the opportunity to formally request a blood test, because he had never had an interpreter. Ware also said he thought Miller had never completely understood the proceedings, because he couldn't hear.
Partly because Miller lived in Jacksonville, it took more than a year to obtain a blood test. Last week, Levine finally got a copy of the test results.
During the hearing Monday, Ruth Roberson, the girl's grandmother, at first questioned the authenticity of the results, saying that she didn't see Miller the day the blood was drawn at a Salvation Army clinic in Clearwater.
"From my understanding, we were to be there together," she said. "Same day. Same time."
A few minutes later, after conferring with attorneys, Mrs. Roberson decided not to challenge the test results. Levine said Miller had arrived earlier in the day from Jacksonville.
"There appears to be no dispute as to the result," Harlan said.
But Miller's fight isn't quite over. Levine said none of the child support will be repaid to Miller. But Levine said he wants the Internal Revenue Service to lift a lien it placed on Miller's income tax refund.
The IRS said Miller was behind $5,500 in child support payments. Levine said the amount was far less. Now the dispute is moot, the lawyer said.
Levine said he is unsure what effect the ruling will have on the girl. He said Miller has had almost no contact with her because of a dispute with the family.
"There are really no winners when you factor in the psychological thing of what happened," Levine said. "He didn't get away with nothing. It's not like it was clever lawyering or a technicality that got my guy off. It was a scientific test."