Philly Jesus Refuses Deal, Heads to Trial Next Week

The man born Michael Grant says video from inside the Apple Store will set him free. His lawyer says not so fast.

If you’re a Philadelphia prosecutor, the last guy you want to deal with is the man known as Philly Jesus — what with the giant cross, religious rhetoric, and penchant for attention-seeking antics. So it’s not the least bit surprising that the district attorney’s office offered Philly Jesus — aka Michael Grant — a sweet pretrial deal after he was arrested at the Center City Apple Story on May 2nd. But Grant isn’t taking the deal, and he’s scheduled to go to trial next week.

At the time of incident, Grant was a regular at the store, frequently stopping in to check his emails and proselytize via Twitter. On this particular visit, things got out of hand. Just as accounts regarding the life of the biblical Jesus vary, so do the accounts of the Philly Jesus Apple Store incident.

Some reports indicated that Grant’s cross was blocking an aisle. As that story goes, an employee asked Grant to move it, and he refused. But Grant tells Philly Mag that this story just isn’t true.

“I’m a customer of the Apple Store,” he says. “I like the Apple Store. I had been in there many times with my cross, and there was never a problem. But this time, one of the employees was offended by the cross and asked me to leave. They made up a story saying it was blocking an aisle.”

Grant says his lawyer has obtained video that proves the Philly Jesus side of the story and that he expects that video to be presented at trial, which is scheduled for next Wednesday. But Grant’s lawyer, Brian Zeiger, tells Philly Mag that there is, in fact, no video, explaining that surveillance video from the store was requested but never provided. A representative of the Apple Store declined to comment on the case.

“My defense is freedom of religion,” Grant tells us.

That’s the same constitutional protection he invoked inside the Apple Store once the cops showed up, according to onlookers. Police say Grant repeatedly refused their requests to leave the store, something Grant won’t comment on.

In the end, Grant was led out of the store in handcuffs. He was charged with defiant trespass and disorderly conduct, both third-degree misdemeanors that carry a maximum penalty of a year in jail plus a potential fine. He was released on his own recognizance.

Prosecutors tried to offer Grant the city’s accelerated misdemeanor program (AMP), a common alternative to proceeding to trial on low-level, nonviolent crimes. Basically, the AMP rules say that if you don’t screw up again in a given period of time, the charges go away. But Philly Jesus declined the offer. He won’t tell us why.

The Apple Store arrest wasn’t Grant’s first run-in with authorities. Court records show a string of arrests dating back to 2005. Many of those charges were withdrawn, including in two separate aggravated assault cases.

In 2009, Grant, a recovering heroin addict, was sentenced to one year of probation after pleading guilty to a drug charge. Four years later, Grant again received a year of probation after pleading guilty in a fraud case.

Note: This story has been updated with new information provided by Grant’s lawyer.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.