Va. pastor: US custody case had no Vt. connection

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The Virginia pastor convicted in a Vermont federal court of helping a woman and her child flee the country rather than share custody with her former lesbian partner is arguing that the case should be dismissed because his actions had no connection to Vermont, court documents say.

Attorneys for Kenneth Miller argue that he never left Virginia, where he lives, while he helped Lisa Miller and daughter Isabella flee. First they were driven by another person across Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York before they entered Canada from Buffalo, N.Y., and then went on to Nicaragua.

"Since he has the constitutional right to be tried in the place where the criminal conduct occurred, his conviction should be reversed, the judgment vacated and the indictment dismissed," Miller's attorneys wrote in documents filed with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

But prosecutors counter that trying the case in Vermont was appropriate because the crime didn't begin until Lisa Miller and her daughter left the country in September 2009. They also lived in Vermont earlier.

"The essential conduct comprising the crime occurred outside the United States; and because Vermont, the district of arrest, had substantial contacts to the case, venue in Vermont was appropriate," prosecutors said in their brief.

Oral arguments were scheduled for Jan. 27 in New York.

Miller, a Mennonite pastor from Stuarts Draft, Va., was convicted in 2012 of aiding in international parental kidnapping for arranging the flight of Lisa Miller and Isabella. Last March he was sentenced to 27 months in prison, but the sentence was delayed pending appeal. The Millers are not related.

Lisa Miller and Jenkins were joined in a Vermont civil union in 2000 and Isabella was born to Lisa in 2002. The couple split in 2003 and a Vermont family court gave custody of Isabella to Lisa Miller with regular visitation for Jenkins. Lisa Miller sought full custody after moving to Virginia and renouncing homosexuality. Two months later she fled the country with Isabella, and a Vermont judge gave custody of the girl to Jenkins.

During his trial, prosecutors showed how Kenneth Miller arranged for Lisa Miller and Isabella to travel to Central America, including having a relative of his buy the plane tickets, and arranging for the two to be met in Nicaragua by another Mennonite pastor.

Lisa Miller and Isabella are still believed to be in Nicaragua.

Jenkins has filed a civil lawsuit against Kenneth Miller and a number of others allegedly involved in the case. That case is pending.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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