Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Two Faces Of Doctor Dino - Day 3 Of 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 Creation 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 the proceedings on day 3 of the trial as the government shifted its attention from Hansen to Hovind. He brings his filmmaker's eye to the drama

In a high profile criminal case involving tax evasion and fraud, the federal government does not take chances by getting sloppy. Watching Prosecutor Tiffany Eggers work, much like a master surgeon,  makes you not only want to never cheat on your taxes or fudge a job application.You never even want to walk outside the lines on a cross walk or even think about committing something to paper that might be a slight coloration on the truth.  

In this federal courtroom, precedent is being set, and tugging at the heart strings of the Jury is the stuff of daytime television--the devil is all in the details. How the feds and the IRS verify authenticity in this case is the most OCD theatre that one can imagine, simultaneously as exciting as a forensics thriller and as dull as memorizing verb conjugations in a dead language. 

Minor clerks and correctional personnel were flown in from around the country to verify a single signature or authenticate an entry in a log book, and at such cumulative expense that Hansen’s lawyer could not help but remind the Jury of that on every occasion. Envelopes containing Hovind and Hansen’s endless filings and complaints were sent to the lab and fingerprinted and sealed, originals in puffy plastic evidence bags. The vast majority of witnesses were called upon for what seemed initially like trivia, but having them read excerpts from Hansen’s and Hovind’s correspondence from one bloated filing or another not only added flavor and variety to the trial, it was as if the prosecutor was building a collective voice, a hive mind, by just having that many people, with a straight face, reading the bizarre prose and machinations of these two self-made lawyer/ prophets long enough so that the Jury had no suspicion that anyone was kidding.

Hansen is good looking in sort of a red rock Sedona, Arizona way, like a professor at a junior college who also coaches fencing and is popular. But he often starts to twitch, very kinetically, and rocks in his chair, never seeming to connect emotionally with the testimony no matter how damning, aside from an occasional word with his attorney or Hovind. But today they, H and H, talked less together, as their lawyers got busy throwing the other guy under the bus as well as countering the government case.

Today was huge. Huge because Hovind’s phone calls from various federal prisons to Hansen his pseudo lawyer and adviser, Eric his son, Jo his wife, Harlin his son–in-law, and many others were recorded as a matter of procedure.  The legal team for the prosecution then masterfully edited and transcribed the material down to a sort of Greatest Hits album and played those snippets. The federal government keeps phone calls from federal prisons on hard drives for 6 months before alleged purging.  If the conspiracy theory types and those that feel paranoid about the NSA being aware of our most intimate details were ever to live their worst nightmare, it would have been today in court.

The bloggers who support Hovind must have been deliciously suffering in their special way as their worst paranoia got tweaked. In the blogosphere, the Hovind supporters rule, with their exuberant talk shows and constant video and audio posts. It has been going on intensely for months. 

Here in Pensacola, although everyone remembers Dr Dino, the dinosaur park, or knows somebody that knew him or has his DVDs or tapes or heard him speak, fundamentally, he is forgotten. Aside from the few out of town protesters that are either outside the courthouse, in the visitor’s galley, or working on fixing their trucks, there are never more than half a dozen locals on hand to see how Kent Hovind is faring. 

Hovind's market is national, the creationist fan base, and of the scores of highly customized evangelical brands in Pensecola, his was not that exceptional in its surreal nature. Other ministers may be sympathetic but do not want to see empathy turned into an audit. Most local Christians think that he was a tax cheat and although a brother in Christ, an embarrassment.

The letters and audio selections reveal that Hovind, like many of us, has two sides. But his two sides are more pronounced than most of ours, and he has the Lord supplying the wind in his sails.

One side is genuinely kind and charismatic, sensitive, funny and paternal.  He never blows up, he never gets angry to the point of bluster, and he’s poised all day long in the courtroom. He’s been in prison going on a decade, and the wearing is obvious.

The other, as revealed in those phone excerpts played in stunning fidelity through the courts superlative hi-tech sound system,  in snippets from six months of emails, is manipulative, cunning, and not unlike the mobster running his oxytocin ring selling drugs to school kids from his jail cell. 

He crushes on someone like Stoll or Hansen or Land who will champion his defense, for a while anyway, and then feels bitterly abandoned and damns them. He loves his son, but manipulates him fiercely, which his son resists with more skill as the years pass. It was tragic comic.

And Hovind gets obsessive, about chasing Anthony Jawoski so that he will allow Hansen to sleep in a trailer on the only land of Hovind’s that actually went to a third party, or repeated requests to everyone to keep after Jawoski for access to the electricity dead head that originates on the parcel that Jawoski bought from the Feds for 100,000 dollars. And yes, to get off the land and pay Hovind a hundred bucks a day as long as he remains.  One can see how this whole thing really started from Hovind’s distaste for pulling construction permits and complying with zoning lawas.

Hovind believes he will win, I mean he really believes it. Why shouldn’t he when the context is Pensacola? A layer cake. The military, the whitest beaches in America, soaring murder and crime rates, hundreds of churches and dozens of Christian schools, a political and cultural progressive renaissance, some of the most fringe Christian groups in the country, fire and brimstone street preachers, and of course two doctors who performed abortions who were murdered twenty years ago but the incident still an unsavory bit of the Pensacola brand. Oh yes, good old Highway I-10 supplying plenty of mind altering goodies.

No one is spared Hovind’s legal maneuvers, cunning plans, bullying, salvos, emotional and financial blackmail, and his pursuit of the next great legal savior resulting in dozens of spurious filings and obscure challenges. He is guilty as charged, the evidence is overwhelming, and he is simply not the “ I don’t know nuttin”  gentleman he pretends to be. Rather, he played a game of Monopoly, a very labor intensive game that was highly calculated, orchestrated, and perhaps more earnest than outright cynical.

 He saw to it that though his property was forfeited that most of it ended up with his wife, son, or son-in-law, making sure that he would have a home when he left prison.  He has the instincts of a video gamer, knowing when to stall, when to attack, and the persistence of a dirt farmer weathering the California drought.

As I sat in the court room and considered only his own calls and letters, I had no doubt that the man sets his own rules in regard to private property and tax. One is his alone to dispose of at will, and the other is not to be paid.

Hansen, his twitchier twin, seemingly in a state of perpetual bliss, is like a sunbaked hippy sleeping on the beach who finds himself one day in a suit. Perhaps less about greed, more about getting over, and living in a perpetual state of para-statism. The Jury lost any sympathy for him as his friend and fellow church member was dragged in from Iowa. The sad testimony depicted a man duped into signing on as a notary in the worst of the liens and proclamations.

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.

For Doc Dino's view of the days event you can listen here.


  1. Brilliant. Outstanding. I see your inner Mencken coming out now!

  2. Thanks for this great view from inside the courtroom. I really appreciate it!

  3. The account above appears consistent with my proposition that Kent Hovind may have Narcissistic Personality Disorder; not to excuse his behavior, but to help explain it.

  4. Tremendous stuff. Shockingly acute and incisive observation.

  5. Solid reporting thanks.

    The audio ( ) was quite entertaining. She said Rudy "will be there until sentencing" and Hovind replied, "hopefully there won't be sentencing."

    So it appears even Hovind supporters think he'll get convicted.

    By the way, if Hovind thinks once he's back under the authority of the federal prison, rather than a county jail, he'll continue to be a radio star then he's in trouble.

    He might find himself in Warren Jeffs position without any phone privileges ( ) or if Hovind remains very disobedient he'll be put in a Communications Management Unit.

  6. Warren Jeffs has limited phone privileges and continues to rule his cult with an iron hand. I can't predict what the future holds as far as incarceration for Kent Hovind.