In the late 1990s, WIl MIller was working as a King County prosecutor in Seattle. And for the first time, he was exploring the gay nightlife. Spending his evenings in the city’s gay bars introduced him to his future lover and, through him, to crystal meth.
“If you're a gay man in the 90s and you're a little overweight and you’re a little self-conscious, it really seemed to solve all of my problems,” Miller said. “It played into every one of my weaknesses.”
Miller continued working for the prosecutor’s office as his secret drug habit grew. One morning, after oversleeping following a long night of partying, he rushed to the office and hurried through security. The guards asked him to open his briefcase and there, to the guards’ and Miller’s surprise alike, sat a metal pipe and a baggy of meth.
“I went up immediately to my bosses and resigned. I told them that there was meth in my briefcase, that I didn’t want to talk about it, and they needed to let me go,” Miller said.
Remarkably, that was not the end of Miller’s legal work in Seattle. As his case was being investigated, Miller began a new phase of his career: Still using, he went from a prosecutor to a criminal defense attorney, representing other addicts.
“I got paid in meth,” he said.
“I Needed a New Hustle”
That arrangement went on for a while, until word got out: The news media started publishing stories about the prosecutor who was busted for meth, often running Miller’s picture alongside the shocking articles.
“I lost all my business. That was it. I needed a new hustle. And there’s only one really profitable hustle in that world, and that’s you buy your drugs in bulk so you can get your own for free,” Miller said.
He wound up arranging drug deals between his former lover and another man -- who turned out to be an undercover law enforcement plant. In the middle of a deal, Miller says a police battering ram crashed through his door. And before long, Miller was sentenced to two years in prison.
“Poor Man’s Rehab”
By the time he was released, Miller had been drug-free for two years, and used that as a springboard to stay clean.
“Prison is the poor man’s rehab,” Miller said.
After working as a paralegal and administrator for a law firm in North Carolina, his new colleagues encouraged him to try to get his law license restored in Washington.
“I was like, come on, I have four felony convictions. I’m not getting my license back,” he said.
But Miller, ever the litigator, made his case to the Bar Association in 2009, and convinced 7 out of 10 of them to reinstate his license.
Now Miller is in the midst of his third act in the Seattle area, working for the Eastside Collaborative Law Center in Bellevue. He says his experience has taught him great compassion for drug users and others who fall into criminal activity because of addiction.
“That being said, I’m very very cynical about people coming out of addiction. You really have to a few years under your belt before I believe you. Too many times I’ve just seen people relapse and relapse and relapse. It breaks your heart if you get too close,” he said.