The owner of a religious botanical medicine store in Inwood was arrested Thursday and charged in a months-old crime: that he drugged a 17-year-old male employee and then performed a sex act with the incapacitated youth, Nassau County police said.
Daniel Miller, 44, of West Broadway in Inwood, was picked up at his home and charged with criminal sexual act in the encounter that police said began inside Botanica Inle Osain on Mott Avenue in Inwood on Jan. 3.
At a bedside arraignment Friday, his defense attorney Nancy L. Bartling said, Miller pleaded not guilty. She said the encounter had been consensual.
Judge Helen Voutsinas of First District Court ordered Miller jailed on $2 million bond or $1 million cash, the prosecutor's office said.
Police said Miller approached the teen on his first day of employment, handed him an alcoholic drink and told him to drink it. Police said that drink contained Lorazepam, an anti-anxiety drug that slows brain activity and can cause drowsiness and dizziness. The teen later told police he didn't know he was being drugged and said he awoke at 4 a.m. to find himself inside Miller's house.
Bartling said in an interview after the arraignment that the teen was intoxicated when he got to work and the two later had a consensual sexual encounter.Asked about the 27-year age difference between Miller and teen, Bartling said: "I can't speak to who likes who. He's old enough to consent, and he did consent."
The age of consent in New York State is 17.
She added: "He was concerned about what he was going to tell his mother. That led to his story."
A police spokesman said there was a delay before the arrest as investigators awaited the results of toxicology tests.
Botanicas are stores that sell herbal and botanical medicines to Roman Catholics from Latin America as well as to Santeria practioners.
Government records show that Miller previously served a state prison sentence after being convicted on forgery-related charges.