UPDATE: Guilty verdict in kidnapping trial
Virginia minister convicted of helping mother and child flee to NicaraguaBy Tim Huber Mennonite World Review
Kenneth L. Miller, a Beachy Amish minister from Stuarts Draft, Va., was found guilty Aug. 14 in U.S. federal court in Burlington, Vt., of aiding an international kidnapping.
Miller was accused of assisting Lisa Miller — no relation — to kidnap her daughter from the U.S. to Nicaragua by way of Canada after a lengthy dispute in which custody was granted to her ex-wife, Janet Jenkins.
The two were married in Vermont, and Miller gave birth to the couple’s child in Virginia with the assistance of artificial insemination, but later recanted her homosexuality and denied parental visits, causing a judge to grant custody to Jenkins.
The key issue for the jury was not whether Miller committed the actions, but whether he acted “with intent” to help Lisa Miller evade court orders.
In late 2009, a Vermont family court judge gave Jenkins custody, but by the time the transfer date arrived, Lisa Miller and the child were in Nicaragua.
The New York Times reported that defense lawyers said Ken Miller knew a Vermont judge was threatening to transfer custody to Jenkins. The judge had indicated this about a month before Lisa Miller was due to appear in court. However, the defense claimed he did not know Jenkins had court-mandated visitation rights and did not believe it was illegal for Lisa Miller and her daughter to travel out of the country because he thought she had full custody throughout the journey.
Prosecutors attempted to compromise that defense with three days of testimony, “often from reluctant witnesses,” the Times reported.
“Appearing uncomfortable and claiming a spotty memory, [Beachy Amish pastor in Nicaragua Timothy Miller] was asked to explain why he had been asked to book the flights from afar and to ensure they did not touch down in the United States, and why Ms. Miller and [her daughter] were disguised in Mennonite dress,” reported the Times. “ ‘It was Ken,’ he softly said.”
At the same time, the Times reported that Timothy Miller said Ken Miller did not believe Lisa Miller was violating court orders at that moment.
Ervin Horst, a Canadian pastor the prosecution called to testify, picked up Miller and her daughter near the border and drove them to the Toronto airport.
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