At the Criminal Justice Center on Wednesday, a deputy sheriff who was asked if he’d seen a man dressed as Jesus enter the courthouse shouted back: “Oh, are you kidding me? No!”
“I can’t find your book!” he shouted, pointing at a disheveled person in the corner. “I haven’t seen Jesus, and I have had enough of the crazies! Get out of here!”
But moments later, Philly Jesus did in fact enter the courthouse.
Indeed, the first coming of Philly Jesus caused a small storm at Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center.
Mike Grant, the bearded Christ imitator who was arrested at LOVE Park last month, entered a plea of not guilty Tuesday, signing paperwork to confirm his decision and promising to return to court Dec. 15.
Well known in the park, where he typically preaches and poses for photographs with tourists, Philly Jesus, as Grant is known, became an international sensation following his arrest on charges of loitering and disorderly conduct last month.
When he arrived for his status hearing on Wednesday, courthouse security guards made Philly Jesus surrender the wooden staff he usually carries.
Inside the courtroom, other defendants nudged each other and pointed, whispering, “That’s Jesus.”
After meeting the judge, Philly Jesus held an impromptu press conference.
“God’s gonna use this to further me into my destiny,” he said. “My destiny is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all creation in a visual experience. … I plan on doing this the rest of my life.”
Charles M. Gibbs, Philly Jesus’ criminal defense attorney, declined to discuss the specifics of the case, but called the charges “ridiculous.”
“The average citizen sees a person who is finding a way to be one with their Lord and savior, and to be crucified by local government for that is astonishing, disturbing and downright disgusting,” Gibbs said.
Philly Jesus also declined to discuss the particulars of his case — but referred to the scripture when discussing the experience of facing criminal charges.
“The Bible says to love your enemies. That’s what Jesus said, to love your enemies. Pray for the ones that persecute you,” he said.
“I’m gonna pray for them. I’m gonna love them. I’m gonna show them love while being persecuted.”
According to the prosecution, the sins of Philly Jesus are violating two laws under The Philadelphia Code’s “Prohibited Conduct” category:
Loitering — 10-1603 (a)
Failure to disperse — 101603 (b)