(CN) - The Second Circuit upheld the conviction of a Mennonite pastor accused of helping a woman flee the country with her daughter to avoid giving visitation rights to her former partner.
Kenneth Miller was sentenced to 27 months in prison after he was convicted in 2012 of aiding and abetting a violation of the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act.
He was accused of arranging a covert flight for Lisa Miller (no relation) and her daughter to Nicaragua, where another Mennonite pastor met the pair to further aid their escape, court records show.
The mother allegedly abducted her daughter after a custody dispute with the child's second legal mother, Janet Jenkins. Miller denied Jenkins visitation rights after the couple dissolved their civil union in 2003, according to court records.
She fled the country in 2009 and there is no record of the mother and her daughter returning to the United States.
Attorneys for Miller appealed his conviction on the basis that Vermont was an improper venue because the alleged crimes did not occur there.
In rejecting the appeal on Wednesday, the Second Circuit's three-judge panel concluded that Vermont was the appropriate venue because Miller's arrest happened there and "the crime took place in its essence outside the jurisdiction of the United States".
While Miller did not leave Vermont during the international crime, "the government is permitted to lay venue by reference to Lisa's actions" in removing her daughter from the country, and "not solely by reference to Kenneth's actions in aiding and abetting her," Judge Susan Carney wrote for the panel.
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