A Columbia man is facing federal charges for a 2008 drug-related killing in which prosecutors say he tortured the victim with a hot screwdriver before shooting him.
Antonio Miller, 38, of Columbia, is charged with use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, drug trafficking causing death, kidnapping resulting in death and drug conspiracy resulting in death, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He has been indicted on the charges and faces up to life in prison without parole, if convicted.
Under federal law, a killing committed during a kidnapping, or while using a firearm during a violent crime or drug trafficking, is eligible for the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. However, the government plans to file notice next week of its intent not to seek the death penalty against Miller, prosecutors said during Miller’s arraignment Thursday.
The indictment alleges that on Sept. 15, 2008, in Aiken County, Miller kidnapped and restrained Fred Tucker, binding his hands and feet and torturing him with a hot screwdriver, prosecutors say. After torturing Tucker, Miller is accused of fatally shooting him in the chest.
Indictments allege that Miller and others conspired to distribute 280 grams or more of crack cocaine and that, while engaged in this conspiracy, Miller intentionally killed Tucker.
Miller was convicted on state charges of murder and burglary in Aiken County, according to the Aiken Standard. However, the S.C. Supreme Court later reversed his convictions after determining that the affidavit supporting a search warrant for Miller’s Columbia home was invalid because it “failed to establish probable cause that evidence of a crime may be contained in the residence,” the newspaper reported.
A state appeals court ruled in 2012 that the magistrate had “a substantial basis” for determining there was probable cause. The state Supreme Court’s reversal of the convictions came in 2016.
State prosecutors have said they will retry Miller on the charges.
It was unclear Thursday why the federal government filed the charges nearly a decade after the killing.
“Miller was charged federally as part of our longstanding cooperation and partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement in Aiken and Solicitor (Strom) Thurmond” Jr., said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Lance Crick.
Miller will have a detention hearing in federal court next week. He remains jailed in the Aiken County Detention Center pending retrial on the state charges.
The case was investigated by the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Aiken Department of Public Safety, North Augusta Department of Public Safety and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorneys J.D. Rowell and Jay Richardson are prosecuting the case.