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03/15/94

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Suspected bike thief may face 'three strikes' sentencing

STANFORD -- A man arrested at Stanford on suspicion of bicycle and vehicular theft has turned out to be an apparent career criminal who, if convicted, could be among the first people in California to be sentenced under the state's new "three strikes and you're out" law.

Jed Harlan Miller, 33, was arrested in the predawn hours of Wednesday, March 9, after a vehicular and foot chase, said Capt. Raoul Niemeyer of the Stanford Police Department.

A deputy attempted to pull over a pickup truck for speeding near Wilbur Hall at about 4:30 a.m., but Miller refused to stop and led the officer on a chase. Police said Miller abandoned the pickup truck after crossing Stanford Avenue into Palo Alto and fled on foot.

The officer caught up with Miller and arrested him, Niemeyer said. The truck turned out to have been stolen in Berkeley.

At that time, said Niemeyer, Miller told the arresting officer, Deputy Ba'b Henderson, that he had stolen the two bikes in the truck bed at Stanford. One was worth abut $700, the other worth about $400, Niemeyer said. The owner of the pickup truck estimated its value at $200. Miller also falsely identified himself to police as his brother.

Once Miller's true identity was established, Niemeyer said, investigators found he had a five-page police record dating back to the 1970s that "reads like a Russian novel," Niemeyer said.

While many cases ended up being dismissed, Miller served two previous state prison terms, for burglary and assault with a deadly weapon, and was on parole at the time he was arrested at Stanford. He had arrests across the state, in Sacramento, Visalia, San Diego, San Francisco and other California cities.

After being arrested at Stanford, Niemeyer said, Miller initially gave authorities - both at the police station and in his first court appearance - his brother's name and personal information; fingerprint checks revealed his true identify. The suspect was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending arraignment in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

Had Miller been arrested before the new law took effect on Monday, March 7, he would have faced, if convicted, a minimum of county jail time and/or probation and a maximum of three years plus eight months in state custody plus one year for each prior prison term. Because he was charged after the law was passed, prosecutors could seek the maximum penalty of 25 years to life.

After the arrest, Niemeyer said, San Francisco police were called to a residential hotel by the building managers, who reporting finding suspicious items in a room rented by Miller. Police seized a number of suspected stolen bicycles and other objects, and found detailed written accounts of criminal activity.

One of those accounts, police said, was of a recent confrontation with a Berkeley man as Miller was in the act of stealing the man's bicycle.

"I looked up and saw this big ole college boy looking down at me," Miller wrote. "He said, 'What are you doing?'

"I said I had lost the key to my lock and that my bike had been stuck here for three days," Miller wrote. "He said, 'That's my f***ing bike!'

"Then, I guess it will remain so," Miller responded and prepared to leave.

But "he came at me and said that we'd better have a little talk with the police," Miller wrote. The suspect then pulled a knife and said, "Don't try to put your hands on me dude," he wrote. "Not caring much for his company any more, I bailed," Miller wrote.

Niemeyer said the University of California-Berkeley police are investigating that confrontation.

"Three strikes" calls for life prison terms for third-time felons if their first two felony convictions were for serious or violent crimes. The new law also doubles many sentences for second-time offenders. Many prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement personnel and advocacy groups have been openly critical of the law, recently signed by California Gov. Pete Wilson.

Without commenting on the law itself, Niemeyer said that Miller was "criminally advanced far beyond being 'just the poor bicycle thief' " as some critics of the new law have characterized the accused.

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