Philly Jesus may preach a message of peace but he is putting up a fight against trespassing charges stemming from his arrest at a Center City Apple Store.
“We will fight this case to the very end,” said Michael Grant, aka Philly Jesus.
Grant, 29, spent 12 hours behind bars after his May 2 arrest inside the store at 1607 Walnut St. He claims he was lawfully in the store charging his phone. Investigators allege that he refused to leave despite being asked three times because a cross he had with him was blocking an aisle. Grant claims the employee that asked him to leave was offended by his appearance and garb.
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Grant, in full Jesus garb, and Philadelphia-based criminal defense attorney Brian Zieger appeared in Philadelphia Municipal Court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing on defiant trespassing and disorderly conduct charges. In front of Judge Henry Lewandowski, Grant rejected participation in an accelerated misdemeanor program that would have settled the case since he maintains his innocence.
“I’m disgusted how the Apple Store treated me,” said Grant. “I’ve been going in there nearly every day for the past two years. I am an Apple customer, I have an Apple iPhone and this is how they treat me?”
Grant refused to remove the cross and he was then asked to leave the store, according to police. The store manager then contacted police.
“I was calm to police and replied, ‘No, I have a right to be here just like everyone else in here,’” said Grant who spends most days in the Center City area of Love Park and Dilworth Plaza giving blessings, the occasional fountain baptism, and taking photos with tourists.
Grant said he sang "Locked up" by Akon as he was arrested.
“My lawyer requested the video footage from the Apple Store to show that I’m innocent of all charges,” Grant told NBC10.
Grant, a recovering heroin addict who is popular among tourists and Center City regulars who donned the Philly Jesus persona about two years during his recovery, doesn’t fear losing his case.
“I never lose, I either win or learn,” said Grant. “I’m a winner… and I’m not surprised how I was treated. “Jesus did say haters gonna hate.” (Grant is paraphrasing John 15:18.)
Grant said part of the reason he is fighting the charges against him is because “Christians are being discriminated against very aggressively all over the country” including being refused jobs and college admission.
“I will fight all of the false reports going around and fight these charges of trespass and disorderly conduct,” said Grant. “I am innocent, bless up, I love you all, God bless you all!”
Grant is due back in court on June 17. He remains free on his own recognizance.
When reached for comment earlier this month, Apple referred to Philly Police for comment.