State murder trial witness says he was told what to say

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By Alice Du Pont

As the murder trial of Hernandez Lopaz Daniels progressed last Friday afternoon, a witness for the state of Florida dropped a bombshell.

"I ain't gonna sit here and lie. He didn't tell me nothin' man. Y’all said y’all was going to do something for me and y’all didn't. That man ain't told me nothing," said John "JC" Miller, when Assistant State Attorney Richard Combs asked him about a conversation he’d had with Daniels.

Miller had been expected to testify that Hernandaz Lopez Daniels, 36, told him in 2004 for that he was behind the murder of Constance Dupont on Aug, 3, 2002. The conversation was alleged to have taken place when the men were both inmates at the Federal Detention Center in Tallahassee. Miller referred to an agent who promised him that if he testified against Daniels he would receive a reduction in his prison sentence. He said it was the first time he had been in federal custody and he didn't know how it worked.

"They said if I testified against Lopez they would cut my time. A whole bunch of people told me that my time would get cut. I have a daughter. I wanted to get out of jail," Miller said.

That's why, Miller said, he gave a deposition on March 3, 2005, saying that Daniels told him he'd had Dupont "taken care of" because the agent told him what to say. He said that prior to the taping of the deposition, the agent told him what to say and that he only said what he had been told.

"Are you changing your testimony today from what you said in 2005?" Combs asked.

"I'm telling the truth. That's all I told you I was going to do, tell the truth. I'm not going to get up on this stand and lie. That man ain't told me nothing. I'm not going to lie because he didn't give me my deal," Miller said.

Miller is currently incarcerated at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution and faces a 30 year sentence. When that sentence is served, he faces another 15 years in federal prison.

He denied knowing Daniels but said he was acquainted with Fernando "Wolf" Taylor, the man accused of actually firing the shots that killed Dupont.

"Who is this agent you keep referring to as the person who told told you what to say back in 2005? Do you see him in this courtroom?" Combs asked.

"That's him there," Miller said, pointing to Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent Jim Bittle.

Bittle took the witness stand and said he was the agent who interviewed Miller Jan. 25, 2005 and in March 2005 at the detention center, but denied promising him anything.

"Miller brought up the reduction in sentence to me. I told him that I had no authority to make any promises to him or anyone else,” Bittle testified.

Miller was followed by another inmate, Jason Sholtz, who is currently serving 100 months in a federal facility in Jesup, Ga. He said he got to know Daniels when they lived in the same dormitory at FDC in Tallahassee and that the two worked out together occasionally. Sholtz testified at the time that he faced life in federal prison and had been told by his attorney that he needed to do what he could to help himself.

That help meant, he said, signing a plea agreement with the government to report what he heard in prison that would help solve crimes. Sholtz said that Daniels didn't open up to him, but when he asked about a witness in his own case, Daniels gave some information.

"I had a witness in my case. I had my partner, ‘Wolf,’ take care of her," Sholtz said, adding that Daniels said he gave "Wolf" $150 and an “eight ball” of cocaine, about 3.5 ounces.

From Daniels' statement, Sholtz said he thought it meant he'd had a woman killed. He said Daniels did not name the woman and that he didn't ask.

Clyde Taylor's attorney asked Sholtz if he was testifying against Daniels because had a deal. Sholtz said he wasn't lying about his conversation with Daniels, but admitted his sentence had been reduced from life to 100 months.