Categorized | Divorce, Family Law

Pastor Jailed for Refusing to Testify in Child Custody Case

Posted in Divorce on January 25, 2013

A Virginia Mennonite pastor has been jailed for at least one week by order of a federal judge after he refused to testify before a federal grand jury in the investigation into a mother who left the country with her daughter in the midst of a child custody battle with her former civil-union partner.

Rev. Kenneth Miller is accused of helping orchestrate the 2009 flight of Lisa Miller (unrelated) and her then-10-year-old daughter to Central America. Lisa Miller had been given custody of the child, but visitation rights were granted to former partner Janet Jenkins. Miller and Jenkins were joined in a 2000 civil union in Vermont, and Miller then had a daughter. They separated in 2003. Miller later returned to Virginia, became a conservative Christian, renounced homosexuality and sought full custody of the child.

Kenneth Miller maintains that his religious beliefs demand that he not testify against any other people who may have aided the disappearance of the woman and child. U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions III was originally reluctant to have Miller held in custody and gave him several opportunities to change his mind. He stated that the criminal justice system cannot function without the grand jury, and that he appreciated Miller’s commitment to his religion and moral beliefs and admitted there may be an inherent conflict in the situation. One of Kenneth Miller’s lawyers argued it was unlikely that incarcerating Miller would convince him to agree to testify, but Sessions replied there was no way to know this unless Miller spent time in jail.

In August, Miller was convicted in federal court in Burlington for helping the woman and child leave the country rather than share custody with her former partner. Miller is due for sentencing March 4 and is facing up to three years in prison.

The woman and the daughter are believed to be in Nicaragua.

Sessions has agreed to hold another hearing to find out if Miller has changed his mind and is willing to testify and be cleared of the civil contempt-of-court finding. Miller told the judge that he is willing to submit myself to whatever the court decides.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Kenneth Miller, Mennonite Pastor, Jailed For Refusing To Testify In ‘Lesbian’ Custody Case,” Meredith Bennett-Smith, January 24, 2013.



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