WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to stay the prison sentence of a Virginia man convicted of aiding in international parental kidnapping and conspiracy for driving a woman to New York, where she then fled the country with her daughter—as she wanted to avoid an impending court order that would mandate that she hand over her child to her former lesbian partner.
“The application for stay addressed to Justice Gorsuch and referred to the court is denied,” the high court simply wrote on Jan. 7 surrounding the case of Zodhiates v. United States.
Philip Zodhiates has since released his first letter from the Ashland Federal Correctional Institution in Kentucky, where he said that the Lord was already using his time of incarceration.
“[God] gave me a terrific cellmate who looks out for me, and three men to disciple. We’ve begun a prayer time every evening and will soon begin a Bible study,” he wrote to his supporters. “Pray I may have God’s wisdom and insight. I feel very unqualified.”
“As a matter of fact, my cellmate told me shortly after he came to this prison, God gave him a vision that God would bring a cellmate who would be the catalyst for a new direction for his life. So please, continue to pray for me regularly, for whatever might be my ministry here,” asked Zodhiates, who is serving a three-year sentence.
As previously reported, Zodhiates was convicted in 2016 on accusations that he drove Lisa Miller and her young daughter, Isabella, to Buffalo, New York, where the two then took a taxi the rest of the way and crossed Niagara Falls’ Rainbow Bridge into Canada. Miller and her daughter boarded a plane to Nicaragua after reaching Canada. (See the indictment here.)
Zodhiates says that he didn’t know what Miller’s plans were—that she was going to flee the country with her child. He states that he simply agreed to give her a ride to New York.
Zodhiates is the son of the late Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, a Greek-born Bible scholar who founded the missions and relief ministry Advancing the Ministries of the Gospel International (AMG). His father also published the Hebrew-Greek KeyWord Study Bible and was a radio and television host, teaching on the New Testament from its original Greek meaning.
Zodhiates and his wife have six children, all adopted. Attorney Robert Hemley, who represented the Virginia businessman in court, described him as a “unique and special individual” who seeks to help others.
Zodhiates made similar statements about his motivations before he was sentenced, outlining that he believes “we’re put on earth to make a difference,” and that was all he sought to do—to help a woman who said she was in need. He said it was not his objective to keep the ex-lesbian’s former partner away from the child.
However, “The story that got told to the jury was that I’m homophobic and that I hate homosexuals, and that’s why I did what I did,” Zodhiates told Sam Bushman of Liberty Roundtable last month. “I love anybody in the name of Christ. I don’t hate homosexuals; that’s a lie. They refused allow any evidence in court that would allude to the fact that I did this just to help somebody. They wanted to portray it as an act of hatred, and that was absolutely not the case.”
As previously reported, Miller had previously been married to Kirk McConchie, her college sweetheart, but the marriage was very brief. The Washington Post reported in 2007 that Miller struggled with being intimate with her husband due to a physically and emotionally abusive childhood, which adversely affected their marriage.
“I tried [to secretly date men],” Lisa told the outlet at the that time, advising that her mother, who she described as “mentally ill,” forbid her from having relationships with men. “She would always find out. ‘All men are evil.’ That’s what I grew up with. ‘They only want one thing.’”
She said that she turned to alcohol in an attempt to deal with her problems, and soon ended up in AA, where she met lesbian Janet Jenkins and entered into a relationship with her, although “I did not feel sexually attracted to women.”
In 2000, Miller joined in a civil union with Jenkins in the state of Vermont, one of the few states that allowed homosexual arrangements at the time. Following an artificial insemination procedure from a male sperm donor, Miller gave birth to a daughter, named Isabella, in 2002.
But Miller said that she had concern even then.
“There were numerous incidents of Janet going to [the Internet] and putting up naked women on the screen saver, and I would ask her to please change it,” Lisa later told the court, according to the Washington Post.
“I don’t have clean hands, either. Previously, before … the baby was born, [pornography] was used in our relationship,” she said. “When we moved to Vermont, Isabella was 4 months old, and I said this stuff has to go … There’s a baby in this house now. I don’t want that.”
In 2003, Miller and Jenkins split over continued tension in their relationship, part of which involved the miscarriage of Miller’s second pregnancy, and Miller moved to Virginia. She renounced her involvement in homosexuality and reportedly turned to Jesus Christ to be born again.
“It wasn’t a struggle,” she recalled of walking away from the homosexual lifestyle. “I felt peace.”
When the civil union between Miller and Jenkins was officially dissolved, the court gave custody to Miller, while also granting visitation rights to Jenkins.
While Miller did allow Isabella to spend time with Jenkins for a while, she reportedly became concerned at the information that her daughter was providing to her following the visitations.
Later, Miller wrote in affidavits that the visits were causing great trauma to Isabella. She claimed that at six years old, the girl was forced to take baths together with Jenkins, and that the girl was openly touching herself inappropriately. She also stated that Isabella was withdrawn and talked about suicide at times.
“Isabella came home and said, ‘Mommy, will you please tell Janet that I don’t have to take a bath anymore at her house,’” Miller told reporters in 2008. “I asked her what happened. She said, ‘Janet took a bath with me.’ I asked her if she had a bathing suit on. ‘No, Mommy.’ She had no clothes on and it totally scared Isabella. She had never seen this woman except once in 2 ½ years and she takes a bath with her.”
“Last year, Isabella put a comb up to her neck and said she wanted to kill herself after one of the visits,” she outlined. “She took a comb and pressed it into her neck and said, ‘I want to kill myself.’ I don’t know where she got that. It was immediately after a visit. Other people have seen huge changes.”
Miller then filed for exclusive custody of Isabella, and the court agreed. She told the Washington Post, “I don’t see Janet as a parent, first and foremost. Secondly, I don’t want to expose Isabella to Janet’s lifestyle. It goes against all my beliefs. I am raising Isabella to pattern herself after Christ. That’s my job as a Christian mom. Homosexuality is a sin.”
However, Jenkins fought the ruling all the way up to the Virginia Supreme Court, which in 2008, ruled in favor of granting Miller’s former lesbian partner visitation rights. Miller refused.
The following year, family court judge Richard Cohen warned Miller that she must allow Isabella to visit Jenkins and threatened that if she did not do so, he would transfer full custody to Jenkins. In November 2009, Cohen followed through with his threats and ordered Miller to hand the child over to Jenkins.
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. It was later discovered that they had fled to Nicaragua via the help of a number of Christians and their contacts, although to this day, it is not known exactly where Miller and her daughter are located.
Zodhiates had appealed his conviction to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, but it was allowed to stand. His attorneys filed a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court thereafter, but it was denied this month without explanation.
“I am still expecting, in God’s perfect timing, to be released miraculously from prison. But it’ll be in a way in which God gets all the glory! Please pray with us it will be sooner, rather than later,” he wrote from prison this week. “Pray that in the meantime we will have peace, joy, patience and endurance!”
A fundraiser has been launched for Zodhiates’ legal expenses.
Mennonite pastor Kenneth Miller of Stuarts Draft, Virginia (no relation) also served several years behind bars for helping Miller, and is now free. American missionary to Nicaragua Timothy “Timo” Miller—no relation to any in the case—was sentenced to probation for arranging Lisa Miller’s travel arrangements from Canada and assisting her upon her arrival to Nicaragua.