Derrick Miller, a former U.S. Army National Guard sergeant who spent eight years in prison for murdering an Afghan civilian in 2010, now serves as a legislative assistant covering military policy for Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz.
While on a combat mission in Afghanistan’s Laghman province on September 26, 2010, Miller shot 27-year-old Atta Mohammed in the head during an interrogation. Miller has maintained that he was acting in self-defense, alleging that Mohammed, who had walked through a defensive perimeter established by Miller’s unit, could be a threat to his unit and that he had tried to grab Miller’s weapon during the interrogation. But another National Guard member testified he heard Miller threaten to kill Mohammed if he did not tell the truth; and then sat on top of him — Mohammed was lying prone — before shooting him in the head, killing him. According to the prosecutor, Miller then said, “I shot him. He was a liar.”
Mohammed’s body was left in a latrine, in violation of military standards.
Miller covers armed forces and national security, international affairs, and veterans affairs for Gaetz, according to the Congress-tracking website LegiStorm. Gaetz serves on the House Armed Services Committee.
“We proudly stand with our Military Legislative Assistant Derrick Miller,” Joel Valdez, a spokesperson for Gaetz, told The Intercept. “He was wrongfully convicted and served our country with honor.”
Miller did not respond to a request for comment.
“Over the course of nearly a decade, members of Congress, multiple advocacy groups, and over 16,000 individuals on a petition have all signaled their support for clearing his name and recognizing him as innocent of charges imposed by a weaponized military injustice system under President Obama,” the spokesperson continued. “Mr. Miller advises our office on many matters, including ways to make the military justice system consistent with our constitutional principles and values.”
Court-martialed and found guilty of premeditated murder of a civilian by a 10-member military jury after a two-hour deliberation, Miller was sentenced to life in prison in 2011, before being released on parole following a lobbying effort for his release. In 2017, Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to review the case. “As you know, our troops face extremely difficult decisions while serving in the heat of battle,” the letter stated.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, also testified in his defense. By 2018, following a clemency hearing, the Army reduced Miller’s sentence to 20 years, making him eligible for parole. He was released on May 20, 2019.
Miller previously served as a military adviser for Gohmert from July 2019 to September of last year. During the same time period, Miller was executive director of the Congressional Justice for Warriors Caucus, which describes itself as “dedicated to educating members of Congress about combat-related incidents where U.S. service members who are fighting for our freedoms have been unjustly incarcerated under the [Uniform Code of Military Justice].” CJWC’s membership includes five Republicans: Reps. Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Ralph Norman, Greg Murphy, and Brian Babin.
Gaetz has intervened on behalf of another servicemember accused of war crimes. In 2019, Gaetz reportedly wrote a letter to Trump on behalf of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, then charged with war crimes in relation to the killing of an Iraqi prisoner of war in Mosul in 2017. Gallagher was charged with stabbing a 17-year-old ISIS prisoner to death, posing with his corpse, and sending the photo to friends. He was convicted of posing for the photograph but acquitted of the other charges. United American Patriots, an organization that provides legal defense for U.S. servicemembers it believes were wrongly convicted of war crimes, also advocated for Miller and Gallagher.
“We completely comprehend and appreciate the necessity for good order and discipline within our Armed Forces,” the letter from Gaetz stated. “However, our experience has witnessed a verifiable bias against the warfighter that is completely political in nature by the United States Navy’s Justice system.”
Correction: March 29, 2023, 4:43 p.m.
This piece previously characterized Eddie Gallagher as a “soldier”; this has been corrected, as Gallagher was in the Navy, not the Army.