Minister Found Guilty of Aiding Miller-Jenkins Kidnapping
August 14th, 2012
A jury in Burlington, Vermont has found Kenneth Miller guilty of aiding and abetting international kidnapping of Isabella Miller-Jenkins, now ten years old, whose mother, Lisa Miller, fled to Nicaragua after losing a custody fight with her former civil union partner Janet Jenkins. Miller is believed to have fled to Nicaragua shortly before a Vermont court awarded primary custody to Jenkins over Miller’s refusal to cooperate with Jenkins’s visitation rights.
The jury deliberated for only a few hours before finding Kenneth Miller guilty:
Federal prosecutors say Kenneth Miller of Stuarts Draft, Virginia, helped orchestrate Lisa Miller’s flight to Canada and Nicaragua in 2009 with her daughter out of Christian solidarity with her decision to reject homosexuality and her former partner. The two Millers are not related.
…Joshua Autrey, a lawyer for Kenneth Miller, did not dispute evidence about his client’s role in organizing Lisa Miller’s secretive flight days before a court-ordered visitation with Jenkins.
Instead, the defense attorney offered a nuanced legal argument that his client did not know about her intent to violate Jenkins’ visitation rights. The attorney said Kenneth Miller helped her leave the country ahead of an anticipated Vermont family court ruling granting full custody to Jenkins.
While the jury was deliberating, Janet Jenkins filed a lawsuit against both Millers and others associated with the case.
Kenneth Miller, who is a pastor of the Beachy Amish-Mennonite sect, contacted other Mennonite pastors to drive Lisa Miller and Isabelle to Canada where they caught a flight to Central America. According to court testimony, Kenneth Miller was careful to ensure that the Canadian fight did not touch down on American soil, undermining his claim that he didn’t know that Lisa Miller was under a court order. His claims were further undermined when the Canadian Mennonite pastor, Ervin Horst, testified that he refused to cross into the United States to drive the pair across the border into Canada. Miller and Miller-Jenkins arrived in Canada in a taxi while wearing Mennonite clothing.
Other Mennonites in Nicaragua picked them up at the airport there and made living arrangements for the pair. Prosecutors say that Lisa and Isabella have changed their names in Nicaragua to Sarah and Lydia. In addition to the Mennonite accomplices, jurors also heard about a collaboration from a Virginia businessman by the name of Philip Zodhiates:
Telephone records suggest that Mr. Zodhiates was in touch with Ms. Miller for months and drove her and her daughter to the Canadian border for their escape.
Mr. Zodhiates has not been indicted, and declined to comment.
Telephone records also indicated that as he drove home from the border, Mr. Zodhiates tried to call a cellphone number registered to Liberty Counsel, an evangelical legal group.
That cellphone number has sometimes been used by Mathew D. Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, dean of the Liberty University Law School in Lynchburg, Va., and a leader of Ms. Miller’s defense team.
In an e-mail Tuesday, Mr. Staver said that the phone number in question had been widely circulated as a contact number for Liberty Counsel’s public relations office and that he had no knowledge of Ms. Miller’s flight and had never discussed her case with Mr. Zodhiates.
Zodhiates has been identified as a prominent financial backer for Liberty University who, according to an FBI report, owns a beach house in Nicaragua where Lisa and Isabella had been staying. The FBI report held that Zodhiates had requested that his daughter, Victoria Hyden, “disseminate a request to get Lisa Miller supplies.” Hyden just happens to be an administrative assistant for Liberty University’s School of Law’s financial aid department.
Kenneth Miller faces up to three years imprisonment.