NEWARK, NJ - In a defiant first appearance at Essex County Superior Court in Newark, the man charged with the shocking attack on an auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark last weekend offered possible clues about what provoked him.
"I'm the Reverend Charles Miller, and I am who I am," said Miller, 48, of Newark, whose description included several expletives. "And that's the mother******* truth."
Miller, represented by public defender Nick Bergmatto, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to one count of aggravated assault. The court noted that he had an out-of-state criminal record, including for a violent offense.
Miller was detained without bail before a pre-trial hearing scheduled for February 2. A follow-up court appearance has been scheduled for March 6.
During the arraignment proceedings, Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Frantzou Simon asked that all discovery materials be turned over to state possession.
With that, Miller, speaking to the court via live stream from the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, interjected: "Discovery includes the Bible, correct?"
The religiously-tinged comments made by Miller in court offer some motive for the unprovoked attack on the Most Reverend Manuel A. Cruz during a Saturday afternoon Mass commemorating the life of baseball great Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua in 1972.
In a video obtained by TAPintoNewark, Miller can be seen casually sauntering up to the alter before landing a punishing blow on Cruz that sent him falling backwards. An Essex County Sheriff's officer who ran up behind him immediately tackled him to the ground before a scene of chaos erupted.
After receiving medical care, Cruz has since appeared in public and is apparently good health.
While the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office has declined to comment on Miller’s motive, his Facebook profile offers a glimpse into the alleged assailant’s state of mind shortly before he was caught on video punching the bishop in the face.
At 9:04 a.m. Saturday, just hours before he drove his classic purple Cadillac Eldorado with a faux-zebra skin interior to Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Miller posted an expletive-ridden rant against the “white hoe ass” Virgin Mary, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and others.
Much of the writing is nonsensical and without punctuation, referencing what appears to be various portions of the Bible. What’s clear, however, is that Miller was boiling with anger, vowing that he was, in all capital letters, “coming up in there to get yawl once upon a time called right mutha f— now.”
In a Facebook note published on Jan. 26, Miller typed a profane, rambling decree against business and government leaders like George Bush and Warren Buffett. As he went on, Miller wrote about unpaid reparations for slavery and an ongoing battle between Jesus Christ and the devil.
“Fighters to the center of The ring,” Miller commented.
Miller, who also goes by the name “Dog Time,” wrote in his social media profile that he grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. His lengthy social media history paints a picture of a man who has grown bitter over race relations in the nation and what he considers to be a white hijacking of Christianity.
A nearly 12-minute video he posted last September, apparently from the King Kennedy Projects in Cleveland, shows a black screen as Miller delivers another sermon.
Although the recording itself is choppy and difficult to hear, at one point Miller clearly said, “Personally, I believe heaven is going to come to Earth.”
Attempts to reach Miller’s relatives were unsuccessful. However, a woman who identified herself as Miller's fiancee cried out from the audience in court on Tuesday when the court ruled that Miller would be detained without bail.
Outside of Veterans Courthouse after the arraignment, the woman, who declined to give her name, responded to questions about why Miller attacked Cruz.
"You want to know why? He's a con man who needs his medication," said the woman. "He's not well. And this ain't a good time."