In mid March as I struggled with corporate extensions and continued wrestling with the tangible property regulations, my friend, filmmaker Jonathan Schwartz was in Pensacola covering the trial of Kent Hovind, Independent Baptist Minister and young earth creationist charged with contempt of court and fraud.
Jonathan's account of the final day of trial, to which he brought his filmmakers eye will be delivered in six installments. - PJR
Paint by numbers.
An account of the closing arguments in the 2015 trial of Kent Hovind aka Dr Dino.
Hovind will be found guilty despite the fine defense put up by his court appointed attorney. He will be convicted, Here are the facts, Episode one of six.
Kent Hovind was accused of interfering with the sale of forfeited property seized as a result of a conviction for structuring - the systematic withdrawal of amounts somewhat less than $10,000 to avoid currency reporting requirements. The trial took place this March in Pensacola, Florida. Hovind was found guilty of contempt of court. The trial has been declared a mistrial, continued to May on the remaining fraud and conspiracy charges as a result of a hung jury. It seems as if there was a single juror reluctant to throw the book at Hovind.
Hoopla bereft of the reality of the courtroom
For months, there have been hundreds of hours of video blogging by members of the Christian right, thousands of words penned by experts offering analysis, barely veiled death threats against the judge and prosecution team courtesy of the lunatic fringe, street demonstrations by those who sincerely believe Hovind is being persecuted because he is a Creationist Christian, and finally, conference calls and strategy sessions hurriedly convened by the best minds in the Sovereign Citizen, tax protest and various conspiracy theory movements. They are trying to plot the best recourse to free Kent Hovind and resuscitate a version of his dinosaur themed creationist theme park and ministry.
All this has just about nothing to do with what is going on in the courtroom.
That is important to remember. Because none of it will have any impact on the case. The jury and judge will decide if he is guilty and what’s to happen with him. And they will do so within stringent federal sentencing guidelines and other constraints which have nothing to do with the judge’s personal feelings as portrayed by Hovind’s supporters who actively engage in smear tactics of the most base sort.
Yes, he’s guilty, despite a spirited defense lawyer and a relentless social media campaign. It’s easy to forget sometimes, with all the hoopla. He is not the marathon bomber, nor Nelson Mandela nor Leonard Peltier nor Aung San Suu Kyi. It’s time to lay out why the prosecution will win despite a robust defense and a handful of supporters willing to throw themselves on the sword for him for their own political gain, or out of solidarity,plain pity, or because they think dinosaurs remain the best toys.
The Federal Government VS Kent Hovind and Paul Hansen. Closing arguments.
Good morning Pensacola. Good morning Courtroom.
Hovind and Hansen showed up for the closing arguments of the trial wearing darker suits then on previous days. They are similar in physique, lean, a bit professorial, decidedly boyish with hair swept in neat parts. The seats for observers were comfortably full, one or two of us journalists, the rest Hovind supporters from out of town, some in suits, some in Jesus T-shirts. A half-dozen Ukrainian twenty year olds had come down from Virginia, friendly but looking like they could handle themselves.
Blogger Rudy Davis and his entourage of half a dozen were in attendance, as they had been daily. Rudy liked to occasionally get up and leave the courtroom in a dramatic fashion, seemingly to update an important person in the movement or check in with his stockbroker. I wanted to give him paper, I felt bad, because he took notes on graph paper (very European for a Texan) in tiny neat letters like a castaway on some Pacific Rim island with just a single sheet of paper remaining, and trying to write his will.
I sat next to George Lujack for most of the closing day. He’s a creationist and debates fellow Christians and Catholics with great enthusiasm, but’s that not why I sat next to him. He is an ex-NY cop built more like an ex-cage wrestler, except bigger. Big head, big knuckles, big wrists, and if there was one guy there that looked as if could give the suited federal marshals a run for their money it was George. Journalists want to ride the bomb just like Dr. Strangelove, we gravitate towards aberrance. But he didn’t act rash, just muttered softly (any audible muttering or utterances was immediately shushed by the Marshals) under his breath. Once, only once, I was richly rewarded by a Lujack getting particularly annoyed at a cross by prosecutor US ADA Tiffany Eggers and he cracked his neck, loudly. The way a thug cracks his neck before beating the kindly Dutch shopkeeper for being a day late on his protection monies.
In from the cold
A couple of families new to the court room had previously been out of doors demonstrating. Their young, Christian homeschooled children were getting a free lesson in civics and joining the Free Kent movement in one go. In clean Khakis and knee socks, again, the children accompanying their parents in protest were remarkably well behaved, and not the least bit twitchy.
And of course, there were the regulars, Rudy Davis and his entourage in the Free Kent Hovind movement. They were middle-aged men, mostly from around the Gulf, mostly devoted anti-government Christians with a sprinkling of straight up right wing tax protesters. There was a doctor who had served 13 years in various lock ups finally returning to his home town and a Pensacola jail, since burned to the ground. He almost lost an eye from a lock in a sock swung at him.
What they generally had in common, aside from the fact that they were all pretty nice in person, friendly and earnest in their preaching, is deep dislike for evolutionists, and more often intense disgust for Jews, Blacks, Catholics, Evolutionists, female judges, female assistant district attorneys, and anyone who disagreed with them. They like to taunt their detractors, especially over the internet.
Hovindicators, a new social movement or angry creationist shock- jock porn putting on a show for each other ?
Someone mentioned today that they, the Hovindactors, had built a movement. I disagree. It is akin to a chimera. The Free Kent Hovind types post and post, and hurl lurid school boy insults at their opponents. Their opponents parry, as expected, and it becomes cyclical and self-sustaining for the Hovindicators especially but everyone gets a measure of attention. The Hovind supporters get to act out for a good cause, show sympathy, and have their offbeat beliefs affirmed in guest appearances on rabid Youtube blogs hosted by kindred souls who rant on similar topics. This is not a social movement, it is an opportunistic one, a chance to attach oneself to a cause that others are carrying on about.
I have been part of or witnessed many grassroots movements, in many countries and all along the political spectrum. Real movements spread, they gain more followers at a good clip, their ideology deepens, and the cause gains new perspectives and molts.
Most of the folks supporting Hovind have long been staunch free Kent choir members. Kent is a Christian who went to the federal pen for not paying taxes and being obnoxious about it. As Hovind enjoys little support in this home town there is zero local movement building going on in Pensacola. He is ridiculed, not because of his religious beliefs, not in Pensacola which is a cradle of imaginative and orthodox fundamentalist interpretation, but because he brought shame, and risk through his tax shenanigans. At the core of the Hovind movement is a group with their own form of hate-anyone-not-like-us porno, getting attention by spitting spew, presenting the same half dozen talking points, making the rounds of each other’s webcasts, like a high school lacrosse team on a yellow bus. Not a movement, just comments about comments on social media.
Federal Judge Margaret Casey addresses the Jury
The Judge admonished the full courtroom that there could be no disruption or people would be removed. After almost a week and a half, we were one big happy family and security and such was visibly looser despite the Judge’s preventative scolding. One stern Marshall manning the metal detector at the lobby entrance turned out to be from New Hampshire, we talked ice and fly fishing, and ski mobiles out in the wilderness. He still took my phone, water bottle and extra pen, but let me chug my coffee on the first floor. And yes, after many tries I found a great coffee shop near the Courthouse. Polanza Bistro, phenomenal.
Judge’s instruction to the Jury. Do not be influenced by sympathy! Are they guilty, or not?
As trials in her courtroom go, “this has not been a long trial” the Judge said.
For most of us assembled, it felt like a hundred years or so had elapsed, so I had one of those “if you say so” kind of moments.
She asked that the Juror’s not be influenced by sympathy or otherwise for the defendants or the government. She then went on to define reasonable doubt as the sort of common sense that you would enlist in making determinations in your own affairs. Her tone was kind, clear, and none of her admonishments were delivered in a way that seemed intended to skew. We who have been watching cop and crime shows all of our lives never heard instructions to the jury before, not once, and by no means was all that she was explaining and rolling out instantly intuitive. She was defining how one gets to the guilty or non-guilty stage, what you ought to hold into account and how this differs from the Hollywood version of a jury doling out justice.
She then explained the Criminal Forfeiture, 18 U.S. Code § 982 and listed the properties it was to include.
You have that to look forward to in the next installment.