Friday, June 15, 2018

Hovind's Hypothetical Pardon

Lamar Smith asks Kent Hovind what he hopes for in a pardon. 

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I had two brief phone conversations with Kent Hovind this morning. He said he was pressed for time .The sound of work in the near background was plainly audible.

I shared this brief history lesson with him.
In 1829 George Wilson and another man robbed a mail carrier, were caught and both sentenced to death. Wilson’s compatriot was executed on schedule but George, apparently, had some influential friends who petitioned President Andrew Jackson for mercy. President Jackson signed a pardon but George Wilson refused it.

The case of the rejected pardon was heard all the way to the Supreme Court who ruled that no, Wilson did not, in fact, have to accept the pardon.  In not formally receiving the pardon George could enjoy none of its benefits and he met his fate at the executioner’s hand shortly thereafter.

So, the Constitutional issue of "Does someone have to accept a pardon, if offered (even signed)?" has been argued and decided.  No one can be compelled to accept a pardon and can refuse for any reason but it does seem to be an all or nothing and take it or leave it proposition.  Wilson never really gave an answer as to why he didn't accept clemency and never, apparently, spoke of it before he was executed.  Even had he accepted it, he still would have served 20 years in prison for his crime but would have been spared the gallows or however they did it in 1829.  So the idea that the pardon is some sort of absolute return to Status Quo Ante is completely falsified.

I posed the question to Kent, after relating the above, "Would you accept a pardon on the structuring and ONLY the structuring?"

He replied "Yes!  But then what they'd have to do....." and I cut him off with "No sir!  No sir!  The historical rule of pardons is that your name is cleared and that's it.  No return of property, no interest, no compensation, just your name cleared of structuring." My sensei subsequently taught me not to ever interrupt someone I’m interviewing and I stand corrected and offer my apology to Kent Hovind for my zeal and rudeness. I hate my fingers just a little bit right now.

I steered Kent to my piece on Peter’s blog and suggested he do some research on pardons.

Kent responded, "The question was, ‘Would I take the pardon?’ and the answer is 'Yes, but I would consider that only the first victory.  I will fight this until I die!’”

As so often happens, the minute I hung up, another question occurred to me. My sensei also urged patience when interviewing anyone and his grasshopper will strive to remember that lesson, as well. After girding my loins I dialed Kent back and posed the question “Would you be willing to formally waive all other monetary considerations if you received a pardon for the structuring?”

Kent asked “Is that something that’s normally done?”

I replied by saying “Think of it from the President’s, any President’s, point of view: why would they offer a pardon if the recipient would simply turn around and sue the government for more? Pardons are seen by the President as a final conclusion to a matter. So, do you think you’d receive a pardon to clear your name if you had to forfeit all other claims?”

I don’t know why the next thing Kent Hovind said surprised me. It shouldn’t have, but it did.

“Well, what does just clearing my name do?”

His ultimate answer to the question was a resounding “I don’t know, I’d have to think about it.” It was clear to me the scenario I had sketched out was not one he’d considered and definitely not one he liked very much.

So, Kent just might become our nation’s second George Wilson if he will not be satisfied with a Presidential pardon in exchange for waiving all other considerations, although it seems unlikely the pardon would even be offered without knowing it would be accepted. Kent felt free to interpret tax laws as he saw fit, why would it be surprising that he’d feel the same about Constitutional law and Presidential pardons?

My conversations indicate that Kent isn’t primarily interested in clearing his name. He really wants to refill his coffers first and foremost.

Kent has his convictions and clearly feels the world should reshape itself around them. On this, absolutely nothing about Kent Hovind has changed.

Lamar Smith taught high school history in Texas for twelve years.  He is a regular contributor to Your Tax Matters Partner.