U.S. Pastor Admits Partial Guilt

MTU.S. pastor Phillip Miles attending his trial on smuggling charges on Monday.
A U.S. pastor arrested in February for bringing rifle rounds into Russia told a prosecutor on the first day of his trial Monday that he was "partially" guilty of the charges.

Phillip Miles, 57, a pastor at the Christ Community Church in Conway, South Carolina, is charged with illegal trafficking and storing and smuggling ammunition, and faces up to seven years in prison if found guilty.

The pastor's lawyer, Vladimir Ryakhovsky, said Monday that Miles was "technically" guilty of trafficking and storage of ammunition but that he should be cleared of the smuggling charge as he acted "unknowingly."

As for the trafficking and storage charges, "it should be taken into consideration that Miles didn't put anyone's life at risk because the bullets can't fire themselves," Ryakhovsky said outside the Golovinsky District Court in the north of Moscow.

"I will seek a [sentence] that would not include a prison term, even if [Miles] is found guilty," Ryakhovsky said.

Miles told the state prosecutor Monday that he admitted he was "partially" guilty. Miles, his lawyer and defense witnesses were even joined by prosecution witnesses in testifying that his actions were unintentional.

"First of all, I'd like to say that I deeply regret all the trouble that I caused to the Russian authorities," Miles, 57, told the courtroom through his interpreter after being conveyed into the courtroom in handcuffs and locked in a defendants' cage.

After standing in relative calm for the first half of the two-hour court session, Miles grew visibly frustrated as the judge and state prosecutor monotonously repeated a set of questions.

As the judge listened to the testimony, Miles sat on the bench in the corner of the cage, nervously stroking his beard and staring at the floor.

One defense witness, Eduard Grobovenko, described Miles' actions as "a human mistake on the part of my friend."

Even Vladimir Ryltsov, a witness for the prosecution, said Miles was "not to blame" as he wasn't aware of Russian laws.

Ryakhovsky said Miles would remain in custody until his case had been decided. The next hearing was scheduled for April 17.

Miles arrived in Russia on Jan. 29 to visit Grobovenko, a fellow church member in Perm, bringing him the bullets for his hunting rifle as a gift.

Sheremetyevo Airport officials seized the ammunition on Jan. 29, and Miles was detained on Feb. 3.