An Appleton woman's attempt to extort $500,000 from an upscale Grand Chute restaurant was "crazy and outlandish," her defense attorney said Friday at her sentencing.
Debbie Miller will spend nine months in jail and four years on probation
instead of collecting hush money after planting a rat in her lunch.
Miller, 43, was sentenced in Outagamie County Court for the 2008 incident at The Seasons.
Defense attorney Edmund Jelinski said the amount Miller tried to extort shows she has mental problems caused by a life of suffering from abuse.
"Five hundred thousand dollars isn't trying to get a quick buck," he said. "Five hundred thousand dollars is a delusion of grandeur."
At the urging of one of their cooks, restaurant owners Bob and Jessica Doller kept the rat after the extortion attempt. Insurance investigators sent it for testing and determined that it was a domestic white rat that had been cooked in a microwave. The restaurant doesn't use microwaves.
Police determined that Miller purchased the rat days before the incident.
Dist. Atty. Carrie Schneider said the crime brought unbelievable stress not only to the Dollers, but also their employees. It caused financial hardship, and to this day, people still connect the rat incident with the restaurant
, Schneider said.
The impact is "very significant and severe," she said.
Schneider also acknowledged Miller's ongoing therapy needs. Judge Dee Dyer's sentence matched the prosecution's request.
Dyer structured the sentence so he can reconsider a prison sentence should Miller fail to abide by rules during probation. The jail sentence will allow her release for treatment, education and work.
Dyer scheduled a May 20 hearing to address restitution. The Dollers are requesting $31,000 based on factors including lost business.
Jelinski, who plans to contest the amount, asked for probation in part to allow for Miller to earn money so she can begin repaying the Dollers.
"I don't think Miss Miller is a hardened criminal," he said. "I think Miss Miller is broken."
Dyer said the presentence report was among the most bizarre he's seen while a judge
. The jail sentence, he said, should serve to assure the community that scheme's like Miller's will be punished severely.
"It's heinous," he said.