Pittsburgh dance instructor deserves jail

By Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor 

Pittsburgh’s most notorious dance instructor is at it again, but this time, she’s trying to two-step around a federal prison sentence.

Abby Lee Miller, the star of Lifetime’s hit show “Dance Moms,” is trying to convince U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti that she should receive probation instead of federal prison time, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Miller was indicted on charges of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of bankruptcy assets and false bankruptcy declarations in 2015. She had earlier declared bankruptcy after the financial health of her original Penn Hills dance studio was failing. She entered a guilty plea on the charges in 2016.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Miller brought nearly $120,000 in cash back into America from dance trips to Australia, concealing the money in plastic bags in her suitcases. She also tried to hide over $750,000 from the bankruptcy trustee. Despite federal prosecutors stating that these circumstances do not allow for a probation sentence, Miller still believes that she shouldn’t face going to prison.

It is difficult to have much — or any — sympathy for the situation that the reality television dance mogul finds herself in. Miller’s attorney describes her decision to find loopholes around the law — instead of, you know, paying back her debts like any other regular American citizen without a million dollar show to help bolster funds — as “foolish.” Her attorney also went on to say that she was “simply ill-equipped to manage her good fortune.”

That statement might be more acceptable if Miller was a 16-year-old girl with no prior business experience. But that isn’t the case. She’s a 50-year-old full-grown woman who has been running her own competitive dance companies in one form or another since she was 14. That’s over 36 years of dealing with finances and the general practices of what it takes to have a successful business.

If Miller was truly “ill-equipped,” her companies should’ve failed a long time ago. But they didn’t, and the statement is merely an excuse disguised as regret, trying to persuade judges — who have far better things to do with their time — to let her off easy because she’s a Hollywood star. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Miller highlighted over 40 dancers that she’s trained, who later went on to have successful Broadway careers, as reason why she should not face prison time.

That would be like Sidney Crosby saying he could never go to federal prison because he scored 36 goals last season. One person does not deserve to receive special treatment – for anything – because they did the job that they’re supposed to do. She is a dance teacher who is supposed to train dancers. That does not make her worthy of a Monopoly “Get out of Jail Free” card, let alone actual freedom from jail.

That information is meaningless to the law, and it only creates more embarrassment that a woman with her power and place in society would refuse to serve the proper punishment for something she knew was blatantly wrong when she did it.

I do not know the reason why celebrities think they are above the law, but this immature and blasé attitude about serious criminal matters needs to stop. The courtroom is not a playroom where people of fame like Miller can flash their TV credentials and popular social media following to get what they want instead of what they deserve.

Miller is known for her childish, scathing attitude on “Dance Moms,” but the fact that she carries it into the real world is ridiculous. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette states that she used a vulgar term in an email to her accountant when referencing her bankruptcy judge. The fact that she is from Pittsburgh and is representing the city with this type of behavior is shameful and humiliating.

Miller can bat all the eyelashes she wants, but at the end of the day, she deserves federal prison.