Man charged in custody battle wants VT trial moved
LISA RATHKE, Associated Press Updated 01:17 p.m., Monday, September 12, 2011
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Nicaraguan missionary charged with helping a woman involved in a custody dispute with her former lesbian partner flee the United States with the child wants his trial moved from Vermont to Virginia. In a motion filed Thursday in federal court in Rutland, Vt., a lawyer for Timothy David "Timo" Miller also wants statements made to investigators in April dismissed, claiming that his client was not read his Miranda rights.
Miller, who is free on $25,000 bond and is awaiting trial, is accused of providing Lisa Miller and her 9-year-old daughter with travel assistance and a place to live outside the U.S. He pleaded not guilty to abetting an international parental kidnapping. Timothy Miller and Lisa Miller are not related. Lisa Miller and her child disappeared in September 2009 in the midst of a long-running custody dispute with her former partner, Janet Jenkins of Fair Haven, Vt., after a Vermont judge awarded Jenkins custody. The two women were joined in a civil union in Vermont in 2000 with Miller giving birth to Isabella two years later. But the couple split up the next year. Miller then renounced homosexuality and became an evangelical Christian. She was granted custody of the child; Jenkins had visitation rights. But Miller, who once lived in Forest, Va., has repeatedly failed to obey court orders and in November of 2009 a Vermont judge ordered her to surrender custody to Jenkins.
Miller failed to show up with the child on Jan. 1, 2010, and a federal warrant was issued for her arrest. A lawyer for Timothy Miller says the Christian pastor who was living in Managua, Nicaragua, was stopped April 18 by U.S. marshals and an FBI agent when he arrived at Reagan National Airport with his wife and four children to attend a wedding in Virginia. Miller was interviewed at the airport police department office, where he told investigators he had been contacted by another man to purchase airplane tickets for Lisa Miller, and used his mother-in-law's credit card to do so, according to the motion filed by Pennsylvania attorney Jeffrey A. Conrad.
Miller, who is described by the FBI as an Amish-Mennonite pastor from Tennessee, was arrested at the end of the interview, charged with international parental kidnapping. But Conrad argues the incriminating statements should be thrown out because Miller was the subject of an interrogation and was detained without having his rights read. He also says that the most appropriate place for the trial is in the Western District of Virginia. The alleged actions that constitute international parental kidnapping took place there and the defendant was in Nicaragua when the alleged crime occurred and has never traveled to Vermont or had contact with anyone in the state, Conrad said in the motion.I'm not thrilled with this development at all. As much as I believe Timo Miller to be innocent of the charge of kidnapping, I'm disappointed that he's moved to suppress evidence that he himself provided.There is already sufficient evidence to convict him, even without his confession. And I'm not happy with the attempt to throw it out on Miranda grounds. For one thing, I think police officers ought to be able to question suspects, and information freely offered in such an interrogation should be admissible. Moreover, if his confession was true, what purpose is served by suppressing it, other than suppressing the truth? This case has to be won or lost on constitutional grounds, not slick legal tricks.
That said, it should be clear that the Vermont court has no jurisdiction in this case, Timo Miller never having set foot in the state prior to his arrest. Any jurisdiction they may have had over Lisa Miller's custody arrangement is of no consequence: it is Timo Miller who is on trial for deeds he is alleged to have done, none of which occurred in Vermont.
I only wish that the two motions had been made separately, or, better yet, that the first would have been dropped as an option before it was ever made. I hope it's overturned.
Lastly, this alleged wedding, originally located in Pennsylvania and now in Virginia, actually took place in Indiana.
And if any of the agents reading this post would like more information, I'll be willing to provide it once they publish the real name of Lisa Miller's husband.
UPDATE October 2nd: the U.S. Attorney responded to a motion to suppress statements made by Timothy Miller before his Miranda rights were read to him. In his response, Coffin said prosecutors didn’t plan to use the statements Conrad wanted to exclude.