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The Unusual Suspect

Does this look like JonBenet's murderer to you?

Miles also disputes the magazine's characterization of him as a drug addict. "I consider myself a recovered drug addict," he says. "I do take methadone. It's a prescription I have for pain. I have lupus and some other health problems for which I need pain medication. But I don't take it to get high."

His mother is also in bad health, and the article was hard on her. But South approached him again, Miles says, and told him, "'I know you and your mom are going through hard times' and handed me $200. He then gave me a little piece of paper to sign saying I'd received the money." Miles says he took the cash and signed.

Soon after, Miles says, South and his fellow writer, David Wright, showed up at his house. This time Wright fanned "twenty crisp $100 bills in my face," Miles recalls. "He said, 'I know that you're a little unhappy about the story, but we'd like you to sign a contract giving exclusivity...I know you and your mom can use the money.'

"He said they'd write another story 'cleaning me up' and I'd get another $2,000."

As Wright spoke, Miles says, South stood at his side whispering, "'Take the money. Take the money.' I felt like I had a little devil on my shoulder."

The money was tempting, Miles says; between his and his mother's medical bills, they have difficulty paying the mortgage. He asked for time to read the contract; they gave him half an hour. In addition to the exclusivity clause, the Enquirer wanted him to sign that the first story, including the quotes attributed to him, was accurate and that he knew that he was on a pedophile list.

Miles turned the deal down.
Soon after, a producer from Hard Copy called and asked Miles to appear on the show. He did, and was paid an amount he won't disclose, but he says on TV he got the chance to tell the truth about the Enquirer allegations.

Of all the allegations in the Enquirer piece, the one that bothers Miles most, he says, is that he's a pedophile--defined as someone who attempts sexual contact with a prepubescent child.

The pedophile label dredged up old suspicions against Miles in Boulder. Part of that sentiment, Miles believes, can be traced to his friendship with Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Miles often photographed Ginsberg, who encouraged him to publish a photography book he had assembled of male figure studies.

One of the founders of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute, Ginsberg caused consternation several years back when he came out in support of the North American-Boy Love Association. Ginsberg, who was gay, publicly defended his position as supporting NAMBLA's right to free speech. He wasn't so circumspect with friends.

Hill, Miles's attorney, also describes the poet as a "dear friend." Hill was one of Ginsberg's writing apprentices at Naropa in the late 1970s and was on a panel with him when the poet described himself as a pedophile.

"It was abhorrent to me," Hill says. And that's why, he adds, he wouldn't be working for Miles if he believed that his client was a pedophile.

Although Miles is openly gay, he says he's never attempted to develop a relationship with anyone below the age of consent. "Sometimes gay kids have come to me to talk about what they're going through," he says. "My house has been a place for kids to hang out who have nowhere else to go. And yes, there have been some parties."

And while he concedes that he's sometimes attracted to the young males he photographs, he says he doesn't break the rules. "I've been asked by parents here, including people in the mental-health field, to take photographs of their sons," he says. "They know I'm gay, and they know about my arrest, but they're comfortable with me being around their sons. I am not some predator...I just sometimes relate better to younger people. I consider them my peers."

The Enquirer story damaged the way of life he'd worked to rebuild since his 1989 arrest, Miles says. And while he understands that no one is above suspicion in Boulder, he wonders why the magazine focused on him--particularly since there's no indication he's ever been interested in females of any age. (The Enquirer reporters did not return calls to their Boulder office. Phillips did not return Westword's call, either.)

The Ramsey legal team source says he didn't even recognize Miles's name when he saw the tabloid story. He wouldn't put it past the Enquirer to make up the "source close to the couple" in order to get Miles to jump through the hoop, he adds.

"I know Stephen Miles," says former Enquirer reporter Joe Mullins, who now covers the Ramsey case for the Globe, "and I don't believe he could hurt anyone and don't believe that anyone ever really considered him a suspect."

Hill agrees. "If you knew Steve, who's really very meek and not in the greatest health, you'd wonder why they ever chose him," Hill says. "To tell you the truth, JonBenet would have kicked Steve's ass."

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