For most of two decades, convicted pedophile Christopher Miller conducted real-life lessons in how to avoid paying for your crimes. ¶ He was accused of molesting two young boys in Southern California over extended periods of time. He was arrested three times for possessing child porn. But he spent less than five years in custody after three convictions, resuming his behavior after each release.
By 2009, he had become Contra Costa County's problem. Miller moved to Bay Point and repeatedly molested an 11-year-old boy.
Now, he may finally do serious time in prison, after being convicted of 29 child molestation charges, as well as a child pornography count, in late May. At his Aug. 2 sentencing hearing, he could receive more than 69 years in prison.
Miller's case, documented in court papers, shows how the 42-year-old pedophile took advantage of a system and its victims. He cooperated with a law enforcement investigation and brokered plea deals to get reduced sentences. He discouraged victims and family members from testifying, thus avoiding more serious charges. He also benefited from California sentencing standards for crimes deemed neither "violent" nor "serious."
"For more than 20 years, Miller -- a predator and a con artist -- groomed his child victims into believing his crimes were acts of love, and then he manipulated their mothers from reporting him to law enforcement," said Contra Costa prosecutor Melissa Smith.
She calls Miller one of Contra Costa's worst child sex offenders ever, one whose history offers a glimpse into how child pornography and abuse can thrive.
In the end, it took another child porn suspect using one of Miller's own tricks against him to stop him.
In 1994, the 23-year-old Miller was caught in a Southern California child pornography sting. He was duped into mailing a package of photos and slides to a sheriff's office mailbox -- along with a short letter describing sex acts he committed against a 13-year-old boy, court documents show.
"What a doll, huh? This is just before I started (performing oral sex). He's a cute little guy," he wrote in the letter.
Investigators then persuaded Miller -- who had no criminal record at the time -- to help them catch Southern California child porn kingpin Timothy Starcher, who had provided videos to Miller. Police feared Starcher was infecting young boys with AIDS. With Miller's help, Starcher was arrested with police finding thousands of slides of young boys, 20 videotapes and nine boxes of magazines in his apartment, among other evidence.
The boy referenced in Miller's letter, whom he met through a youth ministry, wouldn't cooperate with police.
This newspaper is not naming any of Miller's victims or their relatives to protect the victims' identities.
On June 2, 1995, thanks to his law enforcement assistance and because no molestation charges were filed, Miller pleaded guilty to child porn possession and spent 10 days in jail and was placed on probation.
In what would become his modus operandi, Miller would later marry that 13-year-old victim's mother to get access to the boy, Smith said. The couple later had twin boys.
In 1999, investigators conducting a probation check on Miller searched his computer and found a trove of child porn images. Pedophile chat room posts were found on his work computer as well, showing Miller had been fantasizing over a 5-year-old neighborhood boy. Miller had stolen photos of the boy from a drugstore photo processor, uploading them on the site. He also sent photos of his own twin boys to a known pedophile, court records show.
Miller was convicted on two counts of distributing child porn and one count of possessing it.
After his release from jail, ¿Miller stole the identity of his by-then-ex-wife -- the couple divorced in December 2001 -- to buy a computer. He was caught when he tried to pawn that computer, and investigators found even more child porn. He was convicted of theft, burglary and child porn with a prior offense charges on Nov. 26, 2002.
For the 1999 and 2002 cases, Miller was sentenced to a total of 32 months in prison, but because none of the charges was considered violent or serious, he only had to serve half of that sentence.
Two California penal codes determine which crimes are "violent" or "serious"; none of the child pornography offenses falls into either category.
Around 2004, a Texas couple moved to California to facilitate their young son's blossoming acting and modeling career. The family met Miller, by this time a registered sex offender, who introduced them to the Young Artists Award Show, an annual production recognizing child actors. Miller brought the 11-year-old boy to the festivities.
Miller targeted the boy's mother, too, and the pair started having an affair, Smith said. The boy began to spend nights at Miller's Southern California home, where significant abuse started, the boy's father said.
By 2007, the suspicious father found emails from Miller on the family laptop discussing child torture and child pornography. Miller's intent quickly became clear.
"He chooses children and goes after their mothers to have the greatest access to kids," the father, who divorced his wife, said in an interview with this newspaper. "He's extremely intelligent, a sociopath to the truest definition, very articulate. ... You'd never guess it in a million years."
The father alerted authorities, and Miller was arrested. The embarrassed boy told his story to investigators, who declined to file molestation charges because the boy's story had discrepancies, the father said. Smith said that is a frequent challenge in child molestation prosecutions, where it is critical that the child testify.
On Aug. 2, 2007, Miller was convicted of one count of possessing child porn. He was sentenced to four years in prison, but again only had to serve half, and he had already accrued 320 days in custody.
Upon his release from prison on Christmas Day 2008, Miller was out for revenge, the father said. Miller began distributing 10 explicit videos of the child actor, along with vicious letters, to the boy's agents, casting directors, friends, family and others in the entertainment industry.
"It went global," the father said. "Take your worst nightmare and multiply that by 10, and then imagine yourself being a 12-year-old and what impact that would have on you."
Since Miller had failed to register after his prison release, law enforcement -- bogged down by large sex-offender caseloads -- could not find him to stop it.
During the next year, the father said he spent "six figures" on private investigators to track down Miller -- unsuccessfully -- and on an attorney to remove videos as they appeared online.
Miller would later tell investigators he got sexual gratification from ruining the boy's reputation. He told another pedophile in a chat room, "He's horrified. ... There's nothing he can do about it and they will never, ever go away," according to court documents.
Close to justice?
Miller moved to Bay Point and became the roommate of a man named Jonathan, who he met in a pedophile chat room.
The pair lived with Jonathan's 8-year-old adopted son. Jonathan -- a former senior clerk with Contra Costa's Children and Family Services, the agency that coordinates adoptions -- is now serving a six-year sentence at Salinas Valley State Prison for molesting his adopted son.
Contra Costa Employment and Human Services spokeswoman Lauren Brosnan said agency employees "do not receive preferential treatment" for foster services or adoptions. Jonathan's foster parent license was revoked when he was arrested in December 2009, she said.
While Miller lived there, the 8-year-old befriended two brothers who lived in the Bay Point condominium complex. Miller began molesting one of those brothers, who was 11. In June 2009, Miller ingratiated himself with the brothers' disabled and financially troubled mother and moved into their Bay Point house, molesting her son five nights a week.
Miller was finally stopped the same way he had avoided serious prison in the past: Another pedophile took a deal to help East Coast investigators catch a big fish who had been sending him child porn. This time Miller was the big fish; he was arrested at the Bay Point house.
Investigators seized Miller's computer and found child pornography and chat logs from pedophilia and child torture rooms on it. Also found were numerous photos of the 11-year-old brother, including some in which the boy was hogtied.
Miller's victim testified this time -- barely. Before his testimony, the "despondent" boy asked Smith if he could testify with his hoodie up so he could feel safe, Smith said. One veteran sex-crimes detective told the prosecutor the boy was the "most withdrawn and devastated victim he's seen his entire career."
Miller continued manipulating from jail, even proposing to the Bay Point mother to get her to recant her son's testimony, Smith said.
The Contra Costa County jury took less than three hours to convict Miller.
As for the boy, "I think this is a clear example of a victim who can never be made whole, but that the justice system works," Smith said. "This jury verdict is as close as we can come to justice."
Contact investigative reporter Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.
Studies show varying results as to whether inmates convicted of sex crimes will return to prison.
California offenders required to register as sex offenders have slightly higher recidivism rates than those who do not register. (Within three years, 67 percent re-offend, compared with 65 percent of those who don't.)
Among California registered sex offenders' recommitment offenses, 84 percent are for parole violations, 10 percent for a new non-sex crime and 6 percent are for a new sex crime.
The recidivism rate for federal child pornography offenders is 30 percent, with more than 7 percent for sex-related offenses.
Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation 2011 report, U.S. Sentencing Commission 2012 report