A nun will be punished for driving while intoxicated in South Jersey despite her defense that she has a history of sleepwalking and doesn't remember her arrest.
Gloucester County Judge Martin Whitcraft ruled Wednesday morning that Sister Kimberly Miller was guilty of DWI. NBC10's Cydney Long reported that Whitcraft didn't buy Miller's "sleepdriving" defense.
Washington Township Police dashcam video captured Miller’s arrest Nov. 15.
Police said Miller was driving erratically along Route 42 and backed her silver Chevy Impala into the front doors of a Meineke Car Care Center. Miller failed a field sobriety test after she was pulled over, according to investigators. Police also said her blood alcohol concentration was twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent. She was later charged with DWI.
In court last week, Miller said she couldn’t remember anything about her arrest. Miller said she has a history of sleepwalking as well as a painful arthritic condition that requires medication. She claimed the condition keeps her from sleeping so she often drinks wine to help her get some rest.
Miller told the court she remembered attending an event at a children’s book store, then going back to her convent in North Philadelphia, where she put on her pajamas, drank a glass of wine, took Ambien and went to sleep. She claims the next thing she remembered was being at a police station in New Jersey and speaking to a police officer.
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"I asked him where I was," Miller said. "I asked him how I got there. I asked him what time it was."
Whitcraft didn't buy Miller's story, saying there was no evidence she returned to the convent to take the sleeping pill and the prescription for the Ambien was one year old. He also cited case law while saying that "sleep driving" isn't a valid defense.
As part of her sentence, Miller's license was immediately suspended for 90 days. She must also pay a $650 fine and attend drunken driving classes.
Miller left through a back door and didn't speak to reports Wednesday. Her attorney said his client feels her reputation as a clergy person has taken a hit.
"She's obviously very upset," said attorney Jeff Lindy following Wednesday's sentencing. "She's in tears, she's crying and she's upset because she knows what happened that night. I think the conviction doesn't bother her as much as the judge not believing her -- I think that that hurts her."
Miller is a teacher at the Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls in Philadelphia. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office of Catholic Education placed her on administrative leave last year pending the outcome of the investigation. [[375626831, C]]
Students launched an online petition asking officials to let the well-liked sister keep her teaching job.
"She has helped her students blossom into the women they are today with her selfless devotion and dedication to her faith and job as a teacher," the petition reads. "In light of recent events, all of the positive things she has done should not be overshadowed by one negative wrongdoing."
The petition has more than 2,300 signatures.
Following Miller's conviction, the archdiocese said Miller's suspension remains in place as school officials "review the matter further," said archdiocese spokesman Kenneth Gavin.