A nun who argued that she had been "sleep-driving" when she was pulled over in New Jersey last year has been found guilty of drunk driving.
Sister Kimberly Miller, a nun and theology teacher at the Little Flower High School in Philadelphia, was ordered to pay a fine by a Washington Township judge on Wednesday. Her license was suspended for 90 days.
The 41-year-old nun was pulled over in New Jersey in November after a couple witnessed her driving recklessly and dialed 911.
In the call, a woman can be heard saying she saw a driver pulling into an auto body shop, shattering the front door, and then driving away.
"She got out, stretched, and got back in. She couldn't even stand straight," the woman says on the call.
The dispatch instructed the witness to follow the driver until a patrol car could intercept the vehicle.
According to the incident report, when she was pulled over, Miller said she had not been drinking, but it later emerged that she had two glasses of wine at a Haverford book signing.
Officer Paul Crozier reported that he "immediately smelled the odor of an alcoholic beverage," and also saw, in the back seat of the Chevrolet sedan, "a bottle of red wine with a cork half way into the bottle, indicating that it was open."
Crozier can be seen in the dashcam footage pulling the bottle out and setting it on the pavement. Miller can also be seen stumbling to her trunk.
According to the police report, she was unable to perform many of the sobriety tests. Though dismissed from evidence, according to the Associated Press, she also had a 0.16 breath alcohol content, double New Jersey's legal maximum.
But Miller, 41, said she had actually been "sleep-driving." During her municipal court trial last week, she said she had taken an Ambien with a glass of wine and went to bed, though the police report indicated that she had told officers she was leaving the Pennsylvania book event.
When she regained consciousness, she had already been arrested in Turnersville, New Jersey, she said.
"I woke up, and I was in my habit and handcuffs," she said, according to NJ.com.
In the police report, she was described as "calm, but very confused about how she ended up in New Jersey."
The nun, who belongs to Immaculate Heart of Mary convent, said she did not recall getting behind the wheel and driving the convent-owned car into New Jersey. The last thing she could remember was getting in bed, she said.
She also had no recollection of shattering the glass at the Meineke Auto Repair shop.
The witness who had called the police wrote on Facebook that after getting back in the car in Meineke's parking lot, she drove her car right through the door.
Photos of the Meineke Auto Repair Shop after the incident. (Courtesy of Meineke Auto Repair manager Peter DeGeorge)
Miller said in court that she had suffered from sleepwalking for decades, and had taken the prescription sleep aid to treat arthritic pains at night, the Associated Press reported.
Though the incident report indicated several medications she had been taking, Ambien was not listed.
But the judge, Martin Whitcraft, ultimately dismissed the argument that Miller had been sleep-driving, calling it "less than credible."
The defense attorney told NJ.com: "The judge said that he doesn't believe the testimony of a nun ... I was stunned and in disbelief when I heard him say that. I've never seen anything like it."
Whitcraft said she should have been knowledgeable about the effects of Ambien, and pathological intoxication had no basis in New Jersey case law, according to NJ.com.
In addition, though the open bottle of wine found in her car was reportedly leftover from the book event earlier that evening, Whitcraft said its presence in the backseat violated open container laws in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, NJ.com reported.
Four other charges, including reckless driving, failure to report accident, failure to exhibit insurance and leaving the scene of accident, were dismissed.
Since the November incident, The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that Sister Kimberly Miller was placed on administrative leave, even though the incident had not occurred on school property, and did not involve students or other members of the school.
In the face of her suspension, students and supporters from the Little Flower High School began a petition, titled "Save Sr. Kim's Job."
Over 2,000 supporters signed the petition, and many former students and parents wrote encouraging messages.
One parent wrote: "Thank God no one was hurt. That being said everyone deserves a chance again."
"Sister Kim is one of the most heart warming people I have ever met. She helped myself & so many of my peers through some of our toughest times," one alumna of the school wrote.