Philly Jesus goes to court
He's praying for a miracle on Filbert Street this Christmas
Just as Santa Claus was put on trial at Christmastime in the film "Miracle on 34th Street," so too will Philly Jesus be put on trial just days before his namesake's big day.
Perhaps the old "In God We Trust" defense will work this time too.
Philly Jesus, whose real name is Michael Grant, was at the Criminal Justice Center yesterday for a status hearing on two charges against him - disorderly conduct and failure to disperse.
In front of a packed courtroom, Grant, 28, dressed in his trademark white robe, pleaded not guilty to both charges and was scheduled for trial on Dec. 15.
Grant turned many heads as he entered the courthouse on Filbert Street near 13th dressed as Jesus and carrying his trademark wooden staff.
Four security guards surrounded him at the front desk and made him check his wooden staff - but let him keep his leather man bag.
"I just reamed some guy out who'd ask me if I'd seen Jesus," said one guard who passed by. "And here he is."
One civilian woman stared in shock at seeing Jesus pass through the metal detectors.
"You never seen him in the papers?" her companion asked. "This is Philly Jesus. Seriously."
Grant, a recovering heroin addict, has been dressing as Jesus and hanging out at LOVE Park since April, posing for pictures with tourists and locals alike. He's got a large following on Twitter and Instagram and said he dresses as Jesus as a way to get others to approach him so he can share the story of Christ.
Grant said he doesn't ask for money, but does accept tips.
On Nov. 15, Grant was arrested at LOVE Park. Initial reports said police may have thought he was asking for money but Grant's attorney, Charles Gibbs, said the arresting officer may have recognized Grant from his days as an addict and asked him to leave.
Yesterday, outside of the courtroom, Gibbs said his client is being "crucified."
"I expect to raise arguments (at trial) that will vindicate my client from these ridiculous charges," Gibbs said.
As for Grant, he said he's going to pray for those who put him in this position.
"The Bible said to love your enemies," Grant said. "I'm going to show love while being persecuted."
Grant said he wants to continue his ministry till the end of his days and the court case won't stop him.
"I plan on doing this for the rest of my life," he said. "As I age, I'll morph into Philly Moses."
As he left the courthouse, Grant said he was headed over to the city's Christmas Village and then to LOVE Park, where his case and his ministry started.
"Instead of getting pictures with Santa, get pictures with Philly Jesus," Grant said.