Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Federal Court Okays Lesbian Mother to Sue Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver, and Others for Role in International Kidnapping

It's been a very long time since I last wrote about the sad story of Lisa Miller, Janet Jenkins, their break-up, their decade-long child custody fight, and Miller's subsequent international kidnapping of the womens' daughter. Lisa fled to Nicaragua with their daughter Isabella in late 2009 after the Vermont and Virginia courts reached their final straws with Miller over her repeated disregard for shared custody agreements. Primary custody was to have transferred to Jenkins, but Miller fled the country with the assistance of others, including Pastor Kenneth Miller (who was sentenced to 27 months in prison for his role in the kidnapping) and Virginia businessman Philip Zodhiates (who faces eight years in prison for convictions of international parental kidnapping and conspiracy).

Yesterday, a federal court gave permission for Janet Jenkins to go ahead with a lawsuit against Lisa Miller and others who had conspired to assist with Isabella's 2009 kidnapping -- including Liberty Counsel, Liberty University, as well as Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen of Liberty Counsel:
This fall, Jenkins, represented by Sarah Star, Esq. as well as attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center and Langrock Sperry & Wool, LLP, asked the federal court in Vermont to lift the stay, and, in light of new evidence adduced through the criminal prosecutions, to permit them to name Liberty Counsel, Liberty University, as well as Liberty Counsel lawyers Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen, as defendants. On Monday, the court issued a 61-page order granting that request and lifting the stay. 
“I’m pleased that the court today expressly confirmed that the kidnapping was an affront to our client’s rights not just as a mother, but also as a former member of a same-sex couple whose rights the Constitution protects,” said Sarah Star, Esq., who also served as Ms. Jenkins' attorney during the custody dispute. 
“The court acknowledged its obligation to protect those rights and to ensure that we can pursue Ms. Jenkins’ claims expeditiously, which we intend to do.” “The court has given the green light to a full exploration of Liberty Counsel’s role in the kidnapping of Isabella, as well as the role of the Liberty Counsel lawyers,” said David Dinielli, deputy legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “We are pleased the court recognized that our allegations suggested ‘significant wrongdoing’ by these lawyers, including Mat Staver, and we will move swiftly to learn more about their wrongdoing and to hold everyone involved in the kidnapping to account.” 
According to the court document, Jenkins' team alleges that Miller conspired with Liberty Counsel to raise funds with the intent of keeping Isabella separated from Jenkins. After legal attempts to keep them apart failed, the legal team conspired to facilitate their run through Canada and eventually to Nicaragua. You can read the entire decision here.

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