Jonathan Schwartz continues his analysis of the final day of Kent Hovind's March trial.
Thomas Steven Keith has been practicing law for 38 years. He’s sixty-two. He resides north of the Airport in Pensacola, in a clean sub-development. If you were to triangulate his domicile the three points that you might find easiest to plot would be a swimming pool supply depot, a nursing academy, and a pre-school, all not far from the Olive Baptist Church. He was appointed as the Public Defender to represent Kent Hovind. I thought he did quite a job.
Keith gives off the impression in the courtroom that he is a fairly ordinary, hardworking man. Kindly, quiet, and ever so slightly hunched from carrying a briefcase for years. All this to say is that he is easy to underestimate, especially by Hovind acolyte Rudy Davis who wanted him to jump up and down in a theatrical manner and yell “objection” every five minutes. He in fact put up a convincing and intelligent defense, powerful in its simplicity and certainly, with the guy next door persona, the only individual in the courtroom that was universally trusted.
On the morning of March 11th, 2015 Attorney Thomas Keith, Hovind turned and faced the Jury and argued earnestly for his clients release in a down to earth manner. “Is there even a crime here?” Poor judgment was exercised, Keith argued, yes, admittedly, but no bona fide criminal acts were conducted. As to there being a federal crime involved, hardly.
The guy next door
Attorney Keith is the voice of reason, the older and wiser “good guy" that would dare step in between two young bloods in a bar fight, and have them believe that the issue they were fighting over hardly warranted rage, and that they should just go home. He was the counterweight to the eccentricities of the defendant and Hovind’s more vocal supporters. I believe that if they contributed to the defense effort in coordination with Keith they would make tangible progress towards Hovind’s release.
Keith argued in Hovind’s defense that the mere fact that such a big deal was made over the property lien paperwork (intended to block the sale of property that had been up for forfeiture as a substitute for structured funds that were forfeited) being mailed through the United States Postal Service was just a pretext for the government to tugboat the case to the federal level and therefore federal jurisdiction and federal court.
This whole series of events, continued Attorney Keith, hardly merits common civil misconduct status let alone a federal trial. Bernie Madoff, Keith pointed out empathetically, now there was a true criminal who committed terrible fraud that destroyed lives, a true Ponzi scheme, certainly not Kent Hovind who did what he did out of hapless persistence but not ill intent.
There is not nearly enough evidence, insisted Keith, set out in the government’s case, to stack up to a legitimate criminal charge. The prosecution has not come close to proving that the court’s instructions were willfully violated by Hovind, nor does the government’s case take into account Hovind’s intent, which was not to commit a crime, but rather undertake a series of actions in the sincere belief that he would eventually prevail, go free, and recover his property.
Hovind himself hoped his numerous appeals and strategies would bear fruit and earn his vindication, hence he sincerely thought others should know that the government's hold on the forfeited property was not sacrosanct. Given this context, and the property being held in trust by Hansen and the Creation Science Evangelism Trust , the defense argued that Hovind did not know that he was not really allowed to file a lien, or that it would be deemed a criminal act. Hovind was acting in keeping with what he believed to be true, and as an eccentric, but honest, individual.
The Defense Attorney recaps events with artful simplicity
Keith’s tactic was to tell the story of what Hovind was accused of, and retell the course of events in matter of fact terms that would have one questioning oneself as to why one could have possibly thought Hovind guilty of anything major. There was always the strong implication it was all a bit silly and over complicated. So in the second telling of events, the prosecution having presented the first telling, Keith set the scene simply, switching back and forth from past-to-present tense in a persuasive singsong, matter-of-fact recantation that one found difficult not to believe as told in its’ everyman’s voice. It was as if a good and loyal husband was telling his wife what had gone on in the office that day, as he'd done every day for years.
Others were in charge, not Hovind
In 2011, Hovind’s accused co-conspirator John Paul Hansen, (the nominee for the trust that according to the defendants legally held the properties that had been later forfeited to the IRS) assured Hovind that he, Hansen, was acting properly in the name of the Church of Science Evangelism (CSE) trust. (Hovind also referred to his taking advice from a retired Judge Dale of Florida.)
The property was under the Trust’s protection, the control of CSE had been effectively shifting over time from Glenn Stoll to John Paul Hansen. Hansen filed liens, quiet title motions, at his or Stoll’s volition, with no knowledge, or at least not a lot of real attention, on Hovind's part.
Hovind could not be in contempt of a court order that didn’t specifically name Hovind
What’s more, Hovind was not a named party in the court order that had declared on June 2012 that there could be no more liens, by “ agents and representatives”. It did not apply to him. The indictment of October, 2014 was wrongfully directed, because Hovind was not in the loop and not the wrongdoer.
Keith’s plea to the Jury: Not guilty, and make it unanimous
It does not matter if one considered Hovind naïve or delusional. For there to be a Crime committed there has to be fraudulent intention. Hovind fought the charges against him it in a way that he knew were contrarian but believed always legal. The Jury should rule unanimously that Hovind was not guilty. It just makes common sense.
With that Keith filled his banker’s boxes, and with so many thousands of pages that later that day he almost spilled those same boxes while descending the ramp on the court house steps. Motion after motion, filing after filing generated by his client. Hovind’s years of spew.
Then the Prosecutor stood up and delivered her rebuttal.
And that will be Jonathan's final installment.