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Former trooper from Hempfield gets jail in feud

Rich Cholodofsky
| Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 9:12 a.m.

A fired state police trooper will spend a week in jail for assaulting his next-door neighbor last year.

Christopher Miller, 42, of Hempfield was sentenced on Monday to serve seven days to 23 months behind bars in what Westmoreland County Judge Al Bell called an effort to stem an escalating neighborhood feud that he said might lead to more violence against next-door neighbor Terrence Hurd, 73.

"There is undue risk that you will commit another crime and a strong propensity to visit violence on Mr. Hurd," Bell said. "I've tried everything I can think of to keep this from escalating."

Bell ordered Miller to report to jail on Nov. 28 and said he intended to parole him immediately after a week.

For five years the Millers and Hurds were friendly neighbors.

In court yesterday, both Terrence Hurd and Miller said the origins of their feud involved each other's barking dogs that defecated in their neighbor's yards.

After a jury trial in September, Miller was convicted of a misdemeanor count of simple assault for pushing Hurd to the ground during a videotaped confrontation on June 17, 2010, in the front yard of the victim's Mohican Drive home.

Two times before the trial Miller appeared before judges after Hurd and his wife complained they were harassed by their neighbor. In court yesterday, the Hurds presented more videos and pictures that depicted Miller this month shining a flashlight into their windows late at night and just this past weekend approach them at a wooden fence that separated the properties.

Bell, frustrated by the ongoing behavior of both Miller and the Hurds, who erected four security cameras and numerous motion lights that shine toward their neighbor's home, chastised both parties after the sentencing hearing.

The judge compared the dispute to a Cold War Germany and the fence to the Berlin Wall.

"We're just getting to the point of absolute ridiculousness. What's it going to take for everybody to grow up in this case?" Bell asked. "This keeps going on and on and on. Somebody's going to end up dead."

Miller, an 11-year veteran of the state police, had been suspended, pending the outcome of his trial. Defense attorney Pat Thomassey said Miller has since been fired.

Miller told Bell he wants to avoid any more confrontations with the Hurds but has no means to leave the neighborhood, where he has lived since 2003.

"I just want this all to end. I don't know why it won't. I've lost everything but my family. I've lost my job. I never wanted it to come to this and I had no intentions to hurt Mr. Hurd. I wish him no harm," Miller said.

Miller has maintained he acted in self-defense when he threw Hurd to the ground and claimed he thought he was being attacked with a pickax. That fight happened after Miller accused Hurd of making racial slurs toward his children, who are partially of Asian descent.

Before the trial, Miller rejected an offer from prosecutors to enter a jail diversionary program that would have enabled him not to admit guilt and serve one year on probation.

Thomassey said Miller could not accept that deal and keep his job.

Outside the courtroom, Thomassey said the jail sentence imposed yesterday was appropriate.

"You've got to send a message out that you can't do this," Thomassey said.

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