But the hearing before U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes collapsed because Miller and his lawyer, Gary Corum of Little Rock, apparently don't agree with the government on what the agreement says.
While the plea agreement is sealed, it apparently could have resulted in a prison sentence of as much as 24 months. A week ago, Corum submitted a "sentencing memorandum" that suggested that prosecutors had "slipped one in" on Miller. Corum's memorandum is not part of the public record, but prosecutors quoted from it in a motion filed Thursday demanding that Miller and Corum either withdraw the memorandum or withdraw the guilty plea.
Holmes gave Miller more than an hour to decide whether to withdraw his guilty plea and face trial on the 16 felony counts with which he was originally charged. But Corum told the judge that, "as a matter of professional responsibility and as a matter of personal integrity," he could not give Miller unbiased advice.
Holmes then gave Miller a week to hire another lawyer to advise him, after which a timetable for a decision and the resulting sentencing or trial will be set.
Federal prosecutors, represented Monday by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Bush, said the delay in Nelson Miller's sentencing would also force a delay in the sentencing of his former colleague, Bertram Case "Casey" Miller, which was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Monday.
Although Corum offered to explain his conflict to the judge, Holmes said he didn't need to explain. After the hearing, Corum declined to comment except to say that the matter was "personally and professionally painful."
"Hope springs eternal," Bush said after the hearing. He said Corum and Miller were "at the 11th hour ... making an argument that is contrary to the plea agreement."
Miller also pleaded guilty to a single count of felony bank fraud on behalf of Freedom Financial, but that charge will result only in a fine and does not carry any prison time.