Federal Court Permits Lesbian Mom To Sue Mat Staver And Liberty Counsel In Long-Running Kidnapping Case

We’ve been following this case here on JMG for many years. From the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Janet Jenkins has been fighting for years for the return of her daughter, Isabella, and to bring those responsible for Isabella’s kidnapping to justice. In 2002, Jenkins and Lisa Miller, her then-partner, had Isabella. But Miller later renounced her lesbianism and moved to Virginia with their daughter. With the help of Liberty Counsel – identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBT hate group – Miller resisted Jenkins’ efforts to maintain a relationship with her daughter, fighting a multi-state custody battle that lasted for years. When it became clear that a Vermont court might award custody to Jenkins, Miller – rather than complying with a court order – fled with Isabella to Nicaragua, where Miller and Isabella apparently remain in hiding to this day.

Jenkins filed a lawsuit in 2012 against Miller and others who had conspired to assist in the kidnapping, but the case was put on hold in favor of criminal prosecutions against some of the conspirators. 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.” “We are gratified that we can now move this case forward on behalf of our client Janet,” said Fritz Langrock, partner at Langrock Sperry & Wool, LLP.

Isabella’s whereabouts remain unknown. In February 2016 a federal appeals court upheld the conviction of Pastor Kenneth Miller (no relation to Lisa Miller) for his role in the kidnapping, sentencing him to 27 months in prison. Tomorrow Virginia businessman Philip Zodhiates will be sentenced for his role in the crime after being convicted in September 2016 of international parental kidnapping and conspiracy. He faces eight years in prison.

  • Gene

    this is justice….LONG over due in the making

    this man is an evil destroyer of children and families…all based on his religious bigotry

    he deserves jail time…and his organization, bankruptcy and closure

    nothing else…nothing less

    • Palmer

      Well said, and sweet on the tongue!

  • Ragnar Lothbrok

    Good! Shut him down. Lock him up!

  • AJ Drew

    Everything about this is awful. I feel for Jenkins, and welcome “Liberty Counsel” and Staver getting their thumbs screwed, but does anyone know if the child, Isabella, is even… aware?

    • swimboy

      Mom brainwashed herself into “renouncing” her lesbianism, I’m sure she’s done much worse to the child.

    • lymis

      As far as I know, there hasn’t been any indication of anyone discovering her whereabouts, so it seems unlikely that if she’s heard anything, it’s the truth..

  • JT

    RICO those fuckers out of existence and into the big house.

  • Strepsi

    2 companies, 2 lawyers, and 2 other people conspired to commit international crimes just so a lesbian couldn’t see her child? Priorities!

  • bkmn
    • Paul David

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      This was called, “Trump’s America!!”

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  • SunsetGay

    I hope Mat Staver goes to prison and spends the rest of his pathetic days rotting there. Given the events of yesterday, he may get to make some new friends. Friends named Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn, Mike Pence, and Jeff Sessions.

  • AtticusP

    Good. I hope she sues those bastards into oblivion.

  • Halou

    After all these years the child has probably been raised to viciously hate lesbian women, it is such a shame. There is no chance of there being a friendly reunion.

    • Judas Peckerwood

      “There is no chance of there being a friendly reunion.”

      Not necessarily true — she may be queer herself. Or like a lot of us, she might just rebel and turn 180 degrees from a right-wing nutjob upbringing. Fingers crossed.

      • BearEyes

        I would still anticipate de-programming based on whatever nonsense she’s been fed – even if she rebells.

        • Stogiebear

          I wonder where, in the files at Liberty University, the paperwork is hidden that lays out how the Liberty mafia paid for new citizenship papers for the child and her kidnappers so they could disappear?

  • Michael

    Kidnapping–a new “sincerely held religious belief” by the pro-homophobia, anti-family crowd.

  • Acronym Jim

    May Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel, and Liberty University have all the success that they have had in their recent law suits, and all the success of the One Million Mom Disney boycott.

  • Judas Peckerwood

    Take everything the scumbag owns.

    • margaretpoa

      Except his crucifix and his bible. Let his dear and fluffy lord save his worthless ass.

  • Boreal

    Please, please , please take them out.

  • MikeBx2

    I predict a settlement followed by a desperate email money beg. I hope it bankrupts them.

  • liondon#iamnotatraitor

    Stealing peoples children… how Christian of you.

  • safari

    Good. Bankrupt him.

  • 27 months for kidnapping? WTF? Kidnapping is one of the most serious offenses in criminal law. I guess if you claim you did it for Jesus you get off easy?

    • That struck me too! These white xtians always get light sentences.

  • bmoore4026

    Get ’em, Janet! Get ’em!

  • olandp

    Glorious news! Take Staver for all he has!

    • Joe in PA

      His pathetic supporters too!

  • Riley James

    I hope the inmate with the biggest dick calls dibs.

    • doninkansas

      I am sure his dildos are so big that no matter how big the dick, it will be like a toothpick in a barrel in that hole.

  • Since Mat hasn’t won a significant case in the entire history of the Liberty Council, he likely won’t win this one either.

    • perversatile

      Accurate and timeless…
      “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” – Abraham Lincoln.

    • Joe in PA

      So you’re saying Jeebus doesn’t love him? Ooooh. Sad face. /s

  • FAEN

    Please please nail his bigoted ass to the wall.

  • Lars Littlefield

    My Magic Eight Ball says “Things look positive.”

  • jaydee5000

    Mat Staver and his fanatic organization need to be taken down. He’s evidently a godawful lawyer because he never wins a substantial case, apparently thinking that any reasonable court will side with his sacred religious beliefs. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was guilty of criminal conduct – zealots often are.

    • BearEyes

      he’s in it for the grifting and contributions

      • 2guysnamedjoe

        Actual court victories are irrelevant. He’s in it to fleece the rubes.

    • HenryJ

      He even came out against Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s SCOTUS pick, because he attends a liberal Episcopalian Church, roomed with Ken Mehlman in college, and was congratulatory when his gay legal clerk got married. Too gay for Mat.

  • GayOldLady

    Lock him up

  • BearEyes

    Looking forward to the discovery phase.

  • Natty Enquirer

    “renounced her lesbianism”
    Yeah, sure you did.

    • Bj Lincoln

      She either never was or she still is.

      • the sad thing is, with some people, it’s so much more complicated than that. women who sleep with women can be many things. out-n-proud lezzies. bisexuals who for various reasons mostly sleep with women. and who people think are “lesbians” bc they don’t know about the men those women had or do have. transitioning people. people who work in the sex trades. people who are actors and posers for money. etc.

        i don’t presume to judge anyone else’s relationship motivations. i don’t ever have those facts enough to feel intellectually confident to make much more of a statement than the one i just did, which is simply “think of the children.” lol, i know what that sounds like but in truth, i really mean it. let fucked up adults who can’t have a healthy relationship with another adult work that out in private, unless they want to make a movie about it. and even then, keep the kids out of it.

        • greenmanTN

          That reminds me a bit of the story of Tom Robinson, who wrote the ground breaking song “Sing If You’re Glad To Be Gay” in 1977. Tom is currently in a relationship (married?) with a woman, but not an “ex-gay,” but what he calls “a gay man who happens to be in love with a woman.”

          Life is long and many things may happen over that time. I don’t care if someone who identifies as gay or lesbian later ends up in a relationship with the opposite sex. Life happens. But I DO have a problem with the “ex-gays,” who had such self-hate they went crawling on their knees for a religious “fix” and then, claiming to be cured, do nothing but vilify the gay community. There was a gay porn star who was billed as Tom Katt, who later renounced his homosexuality (that boy dearly loved things up his ass!) but he refused to vilify the gay community afterward and so was of no use to the Religious Right, and for that I respect him.

          Tom Robinson continues to be active in gay rights activism.


        • greenmanTN

          Sorry, but while we are on the topic, my favorite Tom Robinson song (cover), which is given more resonance given the time and place.


    • Stogiebear

      It was easier to type than “abdicated her lesbianity.”

  • LVBx3

    After all these years of grifting it could be possible he has some funds stashed somewhere out of the country. I hope his passport has been seized. Roaches flee when the lights come on.

  • drbrentzenobia

    Staver and Lindvaldsen should be disbarred. Period.

  • margaretpoa

    I can’t wait to see Matt Staver go to prison for his role in this kidnapping. He at least needs to lose his license to practice law.

  • Mark

    Staver isn’t much of a lawyer. I suggest: LINO. It’s much more fitting being Quack is already in heavy rotation…..

  • SnowFlake

    good sue that rat bastard mother fucker

  • Ronald Reagan is Dead!
  • Nic Peterson

    Lock her up!

  • Lumpy Gaga

    “scope”, bitchez.

  • Ernest Endevor

    Time to send something to the SPLC. Good luck to Ms Jenkins.

  • RoFaWh

    Can we hope that Staver ends up disbarred?

  • Jack

    What an ordeal this woman has been through.

  • my only concern has always been for the child. people of any kind have ugly, nasty divorce cases all the time. who are the real victims, mostly? the children they may have raised when together. yes, i’m ignoring the victims in childless marriages like mine was, bc that’s a different set of issues.

    if i had been a judge on any of these situations relating to these two, i would have done mostly what the good judges here did, which was to say, the child is not a tool to be used by one of you who found a wacky cult to join to repudiate your former “lifestyle.” that’s a simple and nonjudgmental (pun intended) way to frame this case.

    growing up as a pawn in the center of an exploding political and permanent storm bw two adult parents is never fun. never. trust me on this one.

    • Friday

      Proof of life would be good. Considering these Fundies had every reason to delay trial by non-appearance of the perp, it’d be all too convenient for them to just kinda make sure, yaknow?

  • BobSF_94117

    IIRC, their insurance company has won a judgement that it is not responsible for any penalties arising from this case. While I would like to think she could win and impose a significant punishment on them, if it’s a jury trial, I have my doubts.

    • Friday

      Frankly, for these crimes, getting taken to the cleaners while the insurance parasites they support say ‘Screw you,’ …would be fine by me.

  • Ninja0980

    Good, sue this SOB right into the ground.

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  • Bryan

    Wouldn’t it be lovely if the entire Liberty Counsel was disbarred and forced to shutter because of this?

    • david fairfield

      Yes. Yes it would.

  • Jim in MN

    Mat Staver may go to jail but the icing on this is that he will be disbarred. No more frivolous lawsuits and court rantings from him.

    • Max_1

      The icing will be shot across his face from his cell mate, Brutus.

      • david fairfield

        Oh, that’s icing?

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  • thom

    Joe, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for following this story.
    I grew up Amish and my parents are now Mennonite.
    My family has refused to meet my husband of 8 years.
    It seems like there is very little hope for change within the community in their treatment of gay people.
    And I’m happy that our legal system is pushing back on the abuse of gay peoples rights.

  • Mike Knife

    Anti-gay Christians are criminals and they need to be locked up like the 3 Christian Ex Gay leaders sentenced to 20 years in prison for child abuse shown on the 20/20 TV Show.

  • JaniceInToronto

    Put them all in jail. Jesus will sort them out.