Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Jonathan Schwartz Brings Filmmaker's Eye To The Kent Hovind Trial

Kent Hovind is one of the leading lights in the field of Young Earth Creationism, the notion that there is scientific evidence for a hyper-literal reading of the Book of Genesis. YEC implies that the world is roughly 6,000 years old and dinosaurs and humans must have co-existed.  Nearing the end of a long sentence for tax related crimes, Hovind finds himself on trial this week for fraud and contempt of court related to filings on properties seized in connection with his first conviction.  His co-defendant Paul John Hansen was the trustee of Creatuin Science Evangelism, Hovind's ministry. Hansen challenges the authority of the government in many areas, including the right to bring him to trial in the federal court in Pensacola.  

Jonathan Schwartz of Interlock Media, who has produced documentaries on prison life among other topics, was at some of the proceedings on day 2 of the trial as the government opened its case. He brings his filmmaker's eye to the drama.

Escambia County, home to Pensacola, and where Hovind got himself in such trouble, has more churches per capita than any other county in Florida. Traveling downtown to the Federal Court House from the Airport this afternoon (after flying around the southeast for two days trying to get to the Gulf) I saw old movie theatres being converted to churches and failed malls being taken over by ministries. Up North, we make movie theatres out of old churches and build malls on the grounds of former churches.

Christian leaders have been known to hold sway in this town.  They are said to have judges in their pockets, and ostracize and otherwise punish their secular opposition. In a town with limited civic services, they find funds to build some impressive institutions and installations. If you want to live in Pensacola, you learn to watch your back. This was the playground of Kent Hovind.

There is a lot of faith to go around  in this town, most of it very kind and sincere, and it’s a small enough town that almost everyone is connected to everyone else in some fashion. Trying to recover my lost luggage at Delta, the staffer, Bonnie Baggage recounted Hovind’s visits to the airport. He once tried flying members of his flock overseas with homemade passports.

Hovind, she said, 18 years ago, was charismatic and nice but utterly persistent. Why? Why do my people need a US passport to travel? Passing by the site of Dino land today, in the shadows of the massive Pensacola Christian College, clearly Hovind must have enjoyed being in his element and flourished as a preacher and teacher. His former students tell me that he wasn’t always on his anti-state regulation and anti-tax campaign.  He used to be light hearted and funny and an excellent algebra instructor but as the years rolled by he would spend more time bitterly complaining to the parents who picked up their kids about the great conspiracies.  

Today in court he did not look well. He had a barking cough, and was pensive, not noticeably cheered by the small entourage of supporters in the court room, ten people or so. Rudy Davis was there inside the courtroom as well, on his best “at the office” behavior with an occasional reckless eyeball aimed at one person or another. An ex-wrestler and a good old boy made up the core of Rudy’s entourage.  An understated Marshal sat nearby with a studied bored expression but a martial artists build. The female guard closest to the Judge was less aloof and approached the visitor’s galley with a scolding look when Rudy got a little chatty during the break.

The jurors were one third Black, one third female, and one third balding guys in their forties. They were attentive and jovial, getting a bit of a kick out of the absurd theater that was taking place. They were kind of like a dozen folks you would meet on a cruise ship, still not quite sure as to why they were there.  A couple of them got yelled at coming back from lunch by the demonstrators, and they were offered court funded lunch on the house. My take is that they will hit the bistros instead, they don’t look the type to be easily fazed.

When the prosecution and the defense spoke to the Judge privately, music came on over an excellent PA system to mask the conversation, good jazz and funk and it seemed that the whole courtroom was secretly tapping their feet. Tiffany Eggers, the prosecutor, is fast and tech saavy, moves like a volley ball player. She had staff, her documents were hyper organized and gleamed in their binders and on the many TV screen.

As the defense was happy to bring up, the prosecution spared no expense in flying in clerks and notaries from Nebraska to verify signatures and so forth. She was not going to lose on technicalities. Eggers is a skilled technocrat and attorney and wants to see Hansen, and to a some extent, Hovind, pay. She hammered the prosecution with examples of clear warnings made to Hansen in 2012 that he needed to cease and desist and if he insisted in filing his wild claims at least get a lawyer and follow some process.

An IRS agent and various mid-level clerks testified, and the agent took lots of questions from Hanson’s defense. Klotz was kind of a caricature of himself, a bit awkward in his skin, struggling with the projection technology that Eggers used so masterfully, garnering sympathy from the Jury.

Hovind’s court appointed attorney mostly hung back, but gained momentum towards the end of the day. Klotz insisted, by laying out the chronology, that the State had threatened civil action rather than specifically criminal prosecution that the IRS agent was happy to sell to the Hovind family. This afternoon was less about who really owned the property and hiding assets and more about Hovinds relentless filings and spurious liens. All day Hansen took a beating, but at the end of the day, his attorney Klotz demonstrated some clever maneuvers and used the art of the pedantic to his advantage with the Jury.

The Judge? Understated, brilliant, warm and gracious, she engulfed the jury in hospitality and nurturing. She had so much charm that even Rudy Davis was softened by her glow. 

Jonathan Schwartz is the executive director of Interlock Media, which focuses on environmental and human rights issues. Interlock production Faith In the Big House, on prison ministries recently aired on PBS.


  1. We're hugely indebted to Jonathan Schwartz for his ongoing commentary of this case. My earnest hope is that he will be able to attend the reminder of the trial, and continue to give us updates with the same level of detail that he is giving now.

    I'm reminded very much of the correspondence of H.L Mencken during the Scopes trial in Tennessee, 1925. What is it that the old curmudgeon said?
    “No democratic delusion is more fatuous than that which holds all men are capable of reason, and hence susceptible to conversion by evidence.”
    Oh, how we need a latter-day Mencken in this benighted age!

    If there's any certainty it's that this case will get more interesting as it unfolds, for two reasons. The first is that as soon as Hansen or Hovind are placed under cross-examination, the awful fremdscham-inducing train-wreck of their worldview will be exposed for all the world to see. Whether this induces mirth, pity, or contempt among the jury remains to be seen. My bet is a mixture of all three.

    Note that Hovind has never once been cross-examined in any of his previous trials. As soon as either Hovind or Hansen begins to wave their finger at the court and lecture them that they aren’t American citizens and that the court has no jurisdiction because God, God, God, then they are sunk. We’ll watch the jury’s mirth give way to a steely resolve to Teach A Lesson, and how richly it will be deserved.

    The second reason relates relates to the hillbilly troop presently fuming in their unwashed and gap-toothed indignation outside the courthouse in support of Hovind. Actually: troop? Barely. Certainly less than a platoon. Indeed, if we adopt the same definition of troop as is used by the Girl Scouts of America, then the Hovindicators in toto amount to less than half a Girl Scout troop. And this was going to be the trial that Congress would be compelled to intervene in. Bwahaha! The delusion — it burns. How that must chafe.

    The important point is this: Rudy Davis, for all his “best behavior” at the moment, can’t be ignored as the man who declared only a week ago that Judge Rodgers was a Satanic Jezebel whose life should be forfeit, along with her President, whom Davis has personally offered to behead.

    This trial is going to go more and more poorly for Hovind as things go on. And Rudy Davis will acquire a new ulcer each day, until something will just snap in his excessively self-righteous fundament. Then we’ll see the real Rudy, just like we’ll see how quickly Federal Marshals can move when they need to. I’m telling you, this story ends badly.

    1. lol you gotta be kidding lol you all love living in a fantasy world

    2. i suspect u r the one who wrote the false threat to the hotel

    3. WTF? I'm in Australia, you idiot.

  2. Great writing Mr Schwartz. However, I don't think that your final remarks truly reflect Rudy's reported view of the judge as presented on his YouTube summary yesterday. He thinks himself a latter-day Zola constantly yelling "Recuse! Recuse! Recuse!".

    1. I saw that too. At least Rudy Davis finally learned it is "recuse" rather than "recluse".

      The guy has a lack of self-awareness. Davis has been calling the judges and prosecutors even berating a federal judge's clerk then posting the recorded conversation (which I doubt he had permission to record) on Youtube: (titled "Judge Margaret Casey Rodgers assistant responds to questions about court reporting"). He has been leaving messages on their phones with violent Bible verses.

      Now he complains about the security procedures in the court.

    2. lol you guys are hilarious. what a bunch of idiots you all are.

    3. I don't find anything "hilarious" about Rudy Davis, a unhinged and ignorant man, harassing federal officials with calls and possibly violating federal wiretapping laws by a recording the phone conversation of federal court clerk.

    4. nah, you can try all you want lol. keep trying as hard as you can.... chug along! chug along! keep pushing the rock up the hill lol

  3. Dear Jonathan,

    This is a well-written, detailed account. Please keep it up.

    I was wondering if anyone from the Hovind family (sons, wife or daughter) is watching the trial? Also was a definition of a lis pendens given to the jury? Was it made clear that Hovind no longer owned the property?

  4. This article is full of satire and comedy. The filmmaker is not a very good one at that.

    The former police officer even admitted there is no evidence in this case.

    The Jury is falling asleep during the hearing lol

    It's a parade of horribles and it's a HUGE pornographic scene of injustice and ridiculousness.

    1. Actually, the federal government has more than one hundred pieces of evidence from Hovind and Hansen. They have phone calls, emails and nonsensical legal ramblings. In fact, you can read some of it on 2Peter3 where Hovind blogs about his intent to "stop" the government's sale of property by filing a lis pendens.

      You probably also think "there is no evidence" of evolution too.

      "The former police officer" you are referring to is anonymous man who claims to be a former police officer and is one of less than a dozen Hovind supporters in the company of Rudy Davis. The alleged "officer" said that in Davis' recording today and on that same recording also shares Davis' confusion on why the judge said she decides law and the jury finds for fact. Really, this is such basic part of law I find it hard to believe a former law enforcement officer wouldn't know this:

      Lastly, you Hovind supporters have done him a great disservice. After Hovind is found guilty next week by the weight of evidence, the judge will sentence him based on 1) if he is a first time offender, 2) shows remorse and 3) is likely to re-offend.

      He will probably get a stiffer sentence than the first time because he hasn't learned his lesson, has no remorse and shows he will keep filing nonsense.

      You, Rudy Davis and the dozen or so others are going to be the only ones surprised he was convicted again and the length of his sentence. Davis, by the way, is also a geocentrist too. He is literally surprised that people think the Earth goes around the sun.


      You do know other sleeping members of juries have convicted people of crimes, such as murder before? It could mean there is so much evidence they went overboard.

    2. lol soooo many words. a former police officer came out and admitted there is absolutely no evidence. this is a circus act and everyone know sit.

    3. this is what i mean, you fools are so stupid it's insulting....

      Supreme Court overturns death penalty over sleeping, Twittering jurors:

      It's unconstitutional and the Judge is acting like a criminal... You guys are really a bunch of f'n idiots.

    4. "a former police officer came out..."

      What is his name and what police department did he work for? Let's see if your claim can be supported.

      "Supreme Court overturns death penalty over sleeping, Twittering jurors..."

      Typical Hovindite. Select what supports you and ignore what doesn't. The 2011 case you refer to in Arkansas might have resulted in the case overturned, but more recent cases elsewhere haven't.

      Example #1: From 2013 in Louisiana: "Sleeping juror 'gossip' not grounds for new trial in Gretna murder case."

      Example #2: From 2012 in New York: "NY Top Court Upholds Murder Conviction Despite Alleged Sleeping Juror"

      Example #3: Tanner v. United States decided by the US Supreme Court.

      The court refused to overturn a MAIL FRAUD conviction when a juror fell asleep and others consumed "copious amounts of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine during the course of the trial and deliberations."


      So based on court precedence, a sleeping jury or high jury can convict a man of mail fraud. But this is more relevant than you think.

      Guess where that case started and the man was originally convicted: FLORIDA. According to the ABA Journal:

      "In Tanner, following the trial, two jurors contacted one of the defense attorneys and reported that several of the jurors had consumed alcohol during the lunch breaks, causing them to sleep through the afternoon trial sessions. . . . The juror also stated that several of the jurors had fallen asleep during the trial."


      There is so much evidence of Hovind/Hansen's intent that this jury can easily find Hovind guilty as they sleep.

      Don't get me wrong. I hope they replace any sleeping jurors because when Hovind gets convicted, I don't want any whining from idiots who don't even understand what a proper noun is. (It is clear from your lack of grammatical capability that is there is only one Hovind defender on this blog. You make the same mistake over and over again. Maybe you're the Canadian who runs a few error-ridden websites that support federal prisoners.)

      At that time, Hovind will have had his day in court. The jury would have weighed the evidence and the result will be the same as in 2006: a guilty money-obsessed snake-oil salesman back behind bars.

    5. babbling vomit lol

    6. Didn't have a name for the alleged "police officer", did you?

  5. I saw some comments elsewhere about Rudy Davis and his cohort being upset that they aren't being allowed to "take notes," but newspaper reporters are.

    In addition to Davis' disturbing phone calls to this judge and prosecutors, he and his groups' behavior inside the court should alarm security. Possibly over fears about intimidation or harassing phone calls.

    In his March 4th video on Youtube, Davis discusses someone in his group trying to track down a witness inside the building. Davis said he was told the court's behavior could be "based on the fact that [a member of his group] was looking for one the witnesses we didn't get the name of and would look for him in the witness room". (Listen at 2:15 on )

  6. I think I've pinned down our flaw in logic in trying to remonstrate with Hovind supporters.
    Henceforth, I propose the "Zamprogno Doctrine":

    "If, when arguing over a contentious matter, proponents put their name to posts while detractors routinely post anonymously, then proponents are entitled to conclude that their opponents are all 11 year old boys with learning difficulties and chips on their shoulders, barring conclusive evidence to the contrary."

    This makes so many of the above anonymous comments make perfect sense now. Wonder why I didn't realise it sooner.

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