October 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A Christian activist and entrepreneur who helped a child and her mother escape the United States to avoid joint custody with an unrelated lesbian was convicted Thursday by a federal jury of “conspiracy to commit offense” against the U.S. and aiding and abetting an “international parental kidnapping.”
Philip Zodhiates, 61, did not contest the allegation that in late 2009 he had driven Lisa Miller and her daughter Isabella to Buffalo, New York, where they crossed the border into Canada and then flew to Nicaragua, where they were sheltered by the country’s Mennonite community. However, his attorney argued that it was unproven that Zodhiates knew Lisa Miller’s motives for the trip.
The two charges for which Zodhiates has been convicted could result in a sentence of up to eight years in prison and a $500,000 fine. He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 30.
Mennonite Pastor Kenneth Miller, who is unrelated to Lisa and Isabella, is already serving a 27-month prison sentence for helping to coordinate the reception of Lisa and Isabella in Nicaragua. Last week, he refused to testify against Zodhiates and was found in contempt of court. He may be sentenced to more prison time as a result.
A second Mennonite pastor, Timothy Miller (unrelated to Kenneth and Lisa Miller), has also been charged in connection with the case. Miller was recently deported from Nicaragua and is now under arrest in the United States while he waits for a court date, according to the Justice Department.
The three allegedly aided in the escape of Lisa Miller and seven-year-old daughter Isabella from the custodial power of Miller’s former civil union partner, Janet Jenkins, who had been named by a judge as Isabella’s second “mother,” although she was unrelated to Isabella and had never adopted her. Isabella was conceived by artificial insemination while Miller and Jenkins lived in a civil union in Vermont, which had no law assigning parentage to civil union partners or spouses of women who had been impregnated with third-party sperm. Miller soon after renounced the homosexual lifestyle and separated from Jenkins, returning to the Christian faith of her youth.
After a Vermont court declared that Jenkins had a right to unsupervised visits, Lisa Miller reported that her daughter appeared to be traumatized by her visits with Jenkins, and she strongly opposed Jenkins’ influence over her, which ran counter to the Christian values she was seeking to inculcate in Isabella.
Expert testimony was submitted in the Miller-Jenkins custody case to prove that Isabella was being traumatized by her visits with Jenkins but was rejected by Vermont judge Richard Cohen.
Kenneth Miller was convicted in August 2012 of “aiding and abetting international parental kidnapping” for arranging help for Lisa and her daughter to fly from Canada to Nicaragua, where they reportedly took shelter with Timothy Miller and the country’s Mennonite community. Kenneth Miller began serving his sentence earlier this year.
Representatives of the Mennonite community in Nicaragua say they have also suffered for the cause of protecting Isabella from the influences of the homosexual lifestyle, as police and government agents have both threatened them and cajoled them with offers of benefits if they reveal the location of Lisa and Isabella. They have refused.