US judge delays civil suit in same-sex union custody case due to criminal charges

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MONTPELIER, Vermont — A federal judge has delayed a Vermont woman's lawsuit against people she maintains helped her former same-sex partner and their daughter flee the country rather than comply with child custody orders.

In his ruling Monday, U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions said allowing the civil case filed by Janet Jenkins of Fair Haven to proceed while criminal charges are pending against one of the defendants, Philip Zodhiates, could prejudice the criminal case.

But Sessions said there was no reason to delay the sharing of documents sought by Jenkins' attorneys in the civil suit because federal prosecutors have, or will soon have, the same records.

Zodhiates, a businessman from Waynesboro, Virginia, has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in Buffalo, New York, that he helped Lisa Miller and her daughter Isabella flee the country in 2009 rather than share custody with Jenkins. They are believed to be living in Nicaragua.

Zodhiates was charged last fall with bringing Miller and Isabella to Buffalo so they could cross the border into Canada.

Sessions' ruling said Zodhiates is expected to go on trial this summer in the criminal case.

In 2012, Kenneth Miller, a Mennonite pastor from Stuarts Draft, Virginia, was convicted of aiding in international kidnapping for arranging the flight for Miller, who is not related, and Isabella. Kenneth Miller's conviction is being appealed.

Miller and Jenkins were joined in a Vermont civil union in 2000. Isabella was born to Miller in the spring of 2002. Miller and Jenkins later split up and fought lengthy legal battles over visitation and later custody until Miller and Isabella disappeared in 2009.

Jenkins filed a civil lawsuit against Kenneth Miller, Zodhiates and others in 2012.

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