Two weeks after she was indicted on 20 counts of fraud with a possible five years behind bars and $5 million in fines, Abby Lee Miller today had her first day in court. In a short arraignment in the federal courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh, the pugnacious Dance Moms host paid a bond of $10,000 and entered a plea of not guilty. She also asked for a jury trial. No start date was announced for said trial, which was estimated by lawyers on both sides to need about 11 days to run. There are no restrictions on Miller’s domestic travel, but she must tell the feds if she wants to go overseas.
Entering the courthouse on Monday afternoon local time, Miller answered “Yes” when asked if she took the charges of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of bankruptcy assets and false bankruptcy declarations, among others, seriously. Having received an indictment from a grand jury on October 13 and announced it a week later, the U.S. Attorney and other feds also allege that Miller hid more than $755,000 in earnings from the Lifetime reality series produced by Collins Avenue Entertainment — including having payments made to her mother instead of her. The investigation into potential fraud began when the judge in the case saw Dance Moms on TV and wondered why no mention of the show had been made in Miller’s Chapter 11 filings since she first filed in 2010.
Monday’s packed hearing was originally scheduled for November 5, but Miller successful petitioned the court to move it to today as not to interfere with her filming of Season 6 of Dance Moms in L.A.
Today’s hearing comes a week after Miller and Collins Avenue settled a lawsuit first filed by actual dance mom Kelly Hyland back on February 13, 2014. After the complaint weaved through the courts and saw defamation and assault claims dropped, Collins Avenue will now have to pay Hyland $17,500 to fix the floors in her house that she says were damaged during production. Otherwise, the two sides must make nice or at least the pretense of it in public, and images and audio of Hyland and her two daughters can be used in reruns of the show – with an undisclosed payment from the producers. Hyland’s daughter and Dance Moms cast member Paige saw her separate assault claim against Miller dismissed in mid-July this year.
Also Monday, Miller’s lawyers Robert Ridge and Brandon Verdream filed a proposed order to allow the Dance Moms host an additional 45 days to submit pretrial motions to the court. “By the time of the filing of this Motion, Ms. Miller had not received any material from the Government,” said the extension motion (read it here). If granted, Miller wouldn’t have to file any pretrial motions until December 17.
The government was represented today by Gregory Melucci of the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Kim Lyons contributed to this report.