Trump Should Have Pardoned This Pro-Family Hero. He Didn't.
We have all seen the corrupt U.S. Justice Department aggressively prosecute and imprison political opponents such as General Michael Flynn and former Texas congressman Steve Stockman on the flimsiest of "crimes." Meanwhile, left-wing figures such as Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden, who commit serious crimes, remain untouched. The full truth is worse than what most people are aware of. Here is just one case we're familiar with.
Philip Zodhiates is recognized as one of America's best direct-mail professionals for conservative and Christian non-profits. His company, Response Unlimited, has sent out tens of millions of fundraising letters regarding the homosexual agenda and other anti-Christian movements. Prior to and during the Obama administration, his company sent out over 80 million fundraising letters targeting various suspect issues concerning Barack Obama, including his status as a "natural born citizen" and his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, Zodhiates operated the Conservative Petitions website that generated impactful feedback and millions of email messages opposing leftist programs.
Zodhiates is a committed Christian who adopted six children from Central America and has generously donated money to, and volunteered for, Christian causes.
On Sept. 21, 2009, Zodhiates gave a young woman he knew from his church, Lisa Miller, a car ride from Virginia (where they all lived) to New York. At the time, Miller was under emotional stress and was accompanied by her seven-year-old daughter, Isabella.
That was the beginning of Zodhiates's nightmare. The Obama Justice Dept. and major liberal and LGBT groups used the incident to manufacture an outlandish charge against him, leading to a tremendously expensive trial and landing him in federal prison, where he is today.
The story began almost ten years earlier. It's not surprising that a "gay rights" dispute is involved.
In December 2000, Lisa Miller and another young woman, Janet Jenkins, were in a lesbian relationship. They traveled from home in Virginia to Vermont to enter into a "civil union," which was not legally recognized in Virginia.
Lisa wanted to have a child and was artificially inseminated. In April 2002, when Isabella was born, Jenkins was not listed as a parent on the baby's birth certificate. Since then, Jenkins also declined to adopt Isabella on at least two occasions, according to published documents.
In July 2002, the couple and child moved from Virginia to Vermont. But in September 2003, the relationship broke up, and Lisa and Isabella moved back to Virginia. In November 2003, the domestic partnership was dissolved. After that, according to documents, Jenkins saw Isabella once in 2003 and twice in 2004. Soon after, Lisa became a Christian. In 2004, a Virginia judge officially recognized Lisa as Isabella's sole parent. Lisa decided not to allow Jenkins to have any further visits with Isabella. And according to published papers, Jenkins expressed little interest in Isabella.
Then the LGBT movement stepped in.
The ACLU along with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund sought to make Lisa's ordeal into a test case to establish that same-sex partners in civil unions could have "parental rights" over children — even if they were not biologically related and had never legally adopted them. In addition, according to documents, the Southern Poverty Law Center convinced Jenkins to allow the firm to make this case the precedent-setting attempt to nullify the Virginia Marriage Amendment and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Starting in 2007, these groups funded Janet Jenkins's protracted custody battle over Isabella in the courts of Virginia and Vermont. A Vermont judge ordered that Janet should be allowed unsupervised overnight visits with Isabella, even though at that time she had not seen Isabella for two and a half years.
Lisa initially complied with these orders. But then she noticed that Isabella was acting disturbingly after these visits. According to published documents, after one visit in 2007 (when Isabella was five years old) Lisa noted (published later in an affidavit):
Isabella has been crying at night asking me to promise that she doesn't have to take a bath or shower with [Janet.] ... Since I picked her up on Sunday, Isabella has been exhibiting severe behaviors of stress, including pushing a comb against her stomach and telling me she is going to kill herself. She has been excessively and openly masturbating since she returned on Sunday and at one point tried to put a pen in her vagina.
When Lisa could see that Isabella was obviously being sexually abused during the visits with Jenkins, she declined to yield to the orders of the Vermont court. She continued fighting, but the massive legal force of the national groups was no match for Lisa's meager resources.
Three licensed social workers in Virginia submitted affidavits stating that they believed that Isabella was in danger with these visits, but that did not sway the courts. The Vermont court would not even allow those affidavits to be introduced as evidence.
The Virginia courts were persuaded to go along with the Vermont decision on visitation. In 2008, Lisa fought it all the way up to the Virginia Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of continuing visitation rights for Jenkins!
Lisa still refused to comply. In 2009, a judge warned that if Lisa did not allow the visitations, he would transfer full custody of Isabella to Jenkins. In November 2009, the judge followed through with his threat and ordered Lisa to hand Isabella over to Jenkins.
But by then, it was too late. Lisa and Isabella had left the country.
On Sept. 21, 2009, Lisa asked her friend from church, Philip Zodhiates, to drive her to Buffalo, N.Y. The next day, Lisa and Isabella took a taxi across the border to Canada. They apparently flew from there to Central America, but their exact whereabouts are still unknown, according to reports.
At that point, the LGBT groups got the Obama Dept. of Justice (DOJ) involved. The DOJ charged Zodhiates with international parental kidnapping and conspiracy. The two-week jury trial was largely a sham. Among other things:
- The DOJ got the jury trial moved from conservative Lynchburg, Virginia to liberal Buffalo, New York. But the supposed "kidnapping" took place in Virginia. Buffalo was simply the endpoint of the ride.
- Lisa had full legal custody of Isabella, they had legal passports, and there were no travel restrictions.
- Virginia's Defense of Marriage Amendment to its Constitution forbade the Virginia courts from recognizing the Vermont civil union, and Isabella's Virginia birth certificate lists Lisa as her only parent. Lisa lived in Virginia when Isabella was born.
- The trial was largely on ad hominem characterization, not points of law. During the trial, the SPLC helped introduce "evidence" that Zodhiates was a horrible Christian bigot. But the judge refused to allow evidence of Zodhiates's philanthropy and charitable work.
- The jury never heard any evidence of the horrible sexual abuse regarding Isabella (or the affidavits from the social workers), which was the reason Lisa was escaping with her daughter. More important, fear of sexual abuse is a legal defense for alleged "parental kidnapping." But Zodhiates's lawyers purposefully chose not to tell the jury about that — an act of apparent legal malpractice which Zodhiates brought up in his appeal.
By any normal measure, Philip Zodhiates committed no crime. And certainly by the normal standards of today's legal system, he wouldn't have been charged even if he had. But that's not how things turned out.
The massive DOJ, SPLC, and LGBT legal team was overwhelming, and Zodhiates's lawyers were frankly unimpressive. The jury convicted Zodhiates.
The appeal was also shameful. The court rejected all of the problems with the trial that Zodhiates brought up. Petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court were also rejected. In 2018, he was sentenced to three years in federal prison, where he sits now until the end of 2021. They would not even let him out early for COVID, even though thousands of other inmates were released.
Philip Zodhiates is also hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt for legal fees and lost income. It is likely that the SPLC will bankroll a further lawsuit against him on behalf of Jenkins for "damages."
In December 2019, Zodhiates filed a petition for pardon from President Trump. Unfortunately, no action was taken.
Brian Camenker is president of MassResistance, a pro-family activist group that has been fighting the left's attacks on family, traditional values, and religious belief for over 25 years.