BURLINGTON, Vt. — Appeal proceedings have begun in the case of a Mennonite pastor who was sentenced to 27 months in prison last year for allegedly helping an ex-lesbian flee the country with her daughter.
As previously reported, Kenneth Miller of Stuarts Draft, Virginia was convicted in August 2012 for helping Lisa Miller (no relation) and her young daughter Isabella travel to Buffalo, New York, where they crossed the border into Canada and then escaped to Nicaragua.
Miller, who turned to Christ in 2003, had been threatened by family court judge Richard Cohen that if Miller did not allow her daughter to have visitations with her former lesbian partner, Janet Jenkins, he would transfer full custody to Jenkins. In addition to not wanting her child to be raised in the homosexual lifestyle, Miller believed that her daughter was being traumatized from alleged inappropriate activities taking place between her partner and her daughter.
In November 2009, Cohen followed through with his threats.
However, Miller had fled the country with Isabella before he issued the transfer order, and for some time, none knew the whereabouts of the two. Information later turned up that Miller and Isabella had taken refuge in Nicaragua. It was also alleged that Pastor Kenneth Miller had a part helping Miller flee the country.
“I’ve already surrendered my freedom to Christ, and if this is the path he chooses for me, I will walk it,” Miller told reporters following his conviction. “I am willing to accept the consequences.”
“I am at peace with God,” he added. “I am at peace with my conscience. I give it over to God.”
Last March, months after Miller had been convicted in federal court, Judge William Sessions gave Miller the maximum sentence of 27 months behind bars as requested by prosecutor Christina Nolan, plus one year of supervised federal probation. However, he stayed the sentence pending appeal and released Miller from prison, who had already been incarcerated over the past month for refusing to testify in the case of another man that is also facing charges for his participation in the matter.
On Monday, Miller’s attorney, David Williams, argued before Judge Jose Cabranes that Miller should never have been tried in Vermont—the home state of the Janet Jenkins, as the alleged crime did not occur in Vermont.
U.S. attorney Eugenia Cowley told the court, however, that the crime occurred in Canada, but the impact was felt by Jenkins in Vermont. According to the Portland Press Herald, she advised Cabranes that if the judge throws out the case due to the case being tried in an improper venue, that it will just be filed in another state.
“By winning, you would not be winning very much,” Cabranes posited to Williams. “Do you agree?”
Williams replied by stating that at least Miller would win a “fair jury trial in a proper venue.”
Several Mennonite groups packed the courthouse to show their support for Miller, who took time to thank each one present.
“Whether I am successful in my appeal or not, what I am saying is that it is all good,” Miller told the Associated Press. “That is my faith.”
It is not known when Cabranes will issue his decision.