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Pastor sentenced in same-sex custodial kidnapping case

Pastor Kenneth Miller was sentenced to 27 months in prison, but released pending appeal. He was convicted last summer of helping a woman take her daughter out of the country to flee joint custody with her ex-partner.

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Supporters of Kenneth Miller arrive at federal court on Monday, March 4, in Burlington, Vt. The Virginia Mennonite pastor has been convicted of helping a woman and her daughter flee the country rather than share custody of the child with her former lesbian partner.

Toby Talbot / AP

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A Mennonite pastor who helped a still-missing woman and her daughter flee the country — and a custody fight with the woman's former lesbian partner — joined his supporters in song Monday after being told his 27-month prison sentence could be put on hold while he appeals his conviction.

Pastor Kenneth Miller was convicted last summer on a charge of aiding in international parental kidnapping, also called custodial kidnapping. He received his sentence Monday.

Mr. Miller was still wearing his prison jumpsuit when he left federal court in Burlington and met a crowd of about 100 supporters who came to Vermont from as far away as his home state of Virginia.

"I am grateful for the mercy of God," Miller said, before joining his supporters in singing a hymn, "Our God, He is alive."

During a two-hour sentencing hearing, Miller told U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions III he couldn't promise he would not commit a similar crime again. Last summer, a jury found him guilty of helping Lisa Miller and her now-10-year-old daughter, Isabella, travel from Virginia to the Canadian border and then on to Nicaragua via the Toronto airport.

Lisa Miller and Isabella are still believed to be hiding in Central America. They are not related to the pastor.

Kenneth Miller, 47, of Stuarts Draft, Va., said he acted out of conscience — and a religious belief that finds the idea of same-sex marriage offensive — after a desperate Lisa Miller came to him in September 2009. Miller said the woman pleaded for help escaping a custody agreement that mandated Isabella spend time with Lisa's former partner, Janet Jenkins of Fair Haven, Vt.

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