An 18-month prison sentence and three years supervised release. That’s what Kent Hovind's co-defendant in their March trial, Paul Hansen, faced as he left the courtroom today in his orange, Santa Rosa County (Florida) Jail jumpsuit. With credit for time already served his incarceration should go to late winter or early spring of next year.
The sentencing hearing began at 2 p.m. in the Winston E. Arnow Federal Building across the street from the courthouse where Hansen was found guilty of violating a court order and failure to appear before a grand jury in Pensacola, Fla., to provide handwriting samples and fingerprints.
Hansen explained as best he could, with the attorney who represented him at trial, Christopher Klotz, acting as stand-by counsel, the objections he had previously made.
First on the agenda was Hansen's request that IRS agent Scott Schneider be present so he could be asked about the valuation of the Creation Science Evangelism property that had been forfeited. Part of the problem, along with not providing U.S. Chief Judge M. Casey Rodgers with a reason for subpoenaing Schneider before the hearing, is that he wasn't the IRS agent investigating Hovind's case. It was Chuck Evans.
U.S. Assistant Attorney J. Ryan Love said Hansen had the opportunity to ask Schneider about the valuation of CSE property during the trial in March.
The valuation was important to Hansen because he believes there was no actual loss since the properties have been sold.
"[Hansen's] intent was to see to it that the government not sell those properties," Love said.
Klotz tried to make the argument that all the property was collateral, and that there would be a "substantially better" valuation if the losses were recalculated.
The problem for Hansen, even though this was the route he wanted to take, is that it opened him up to many more months of prison time if the U.S. Sentencing Commission's guidelines were followed.
The guidelines consider offense level and criminal history. With Hansen's criminal history at a level five out of six and a revaluation of CSE property, Hansen's offense level could jump from 17, where guidelines recommend 46-57 months in prison, to 23, where it recommends 84-105 months. Love seemed sympathetic toward Hansen and didn't want him to press for a revaluation because he said the government is only concerned with the intended loss. He genuinely seemed like he was trying to help Hansen.
"We want to do the right thing here," Love said.
Judge Rodgers was also skeptical about Hansen and Klotz's argument, and she overruled the objection.
Next was Hansen's objection that he caused "substantial interference" with the government's attempts at selling the forfeited CSE property. Hansen repeatedly said throughout the two-and-a-half hour hearing that he only mailed a letter to the title company’s attorney to build litigation to challenge the authority of U.S. federal court in the people's common law court. Hansen pointed out that he did not mail the letter to the Escambia County (Florida) Clerk of Court to file a lien. Judge Rodgers said, "Unfortunately, the jury disagreed."
Love said that substantial government resources were used, Judge Rodgers added that substantial court resources were used, and she overruled the objection.
Hansen's final objection concerned his criminal history, and he went into detail on some of it. He said he had issues with permits and housing codes for the homes he used to remodel. Another time he was closing the front door that had been kicked in at his home, and he was approached and threatened with six months in jail. In another instance, he was asked for his name and he replied, "Paul John, and my father's name is Hansen." He said he was accused of giving false information.
All of the charges were misdemeanors, and some of them were dismissed.
Then there was the issue of jurisdiction. Hansen said he's not saying the U.S. court doesn't have authority over him, but he's asked for the court to show him the evidence that it does.
"I've allowed you to present those challenges and I disagree with you," Judge Rodgers said. "It's nothing personal."
Hansen replied, "I didn’t intend to antagonize the court," to which Judge Rodgers said, "I didn't perceive it that way."
Judge Rodgers asked Hansen about the claim that he hasn't paid income taxes since 2000 or 2001. Hansen said that he has filed an IRS 6203 assessment, which according to Hansen is asking the government to assess an individual to see if anything is owed.
"I haven't neglected the IRS," he said.
Hansen ended his remarks about the objections by saying, "I don’t think my actions have ever clouded the title." Judge Rodgers pointed out that it was the intent of his actions that the jury considered.
Hansen then called two character witnesses to the stand—Kent Hovind and Ernie Land.
Hovind said he's known Hansen for about 10 to 12 years, including having shared a jail cell for three months last year.
Hovind testified that Hansen mentioned pursuing a common law court for their case "many times," that Hansen had no intention to deprive money from anyone, that the mailed letter was associated with future litigation and that Hansen is a Godly man whom he trusts completely.
Land, who's only interacted with Hansen for the past 10 months but knew about him years before, testified that Hansen had no intent to violate the law, Hansen wants to bring the country back to what the founding fathers intended it to be and that Hansen stands with the Constitution. Land said Hansen has trouble with codes and lower court regulations, so he goes directly to the common language of the Constitution instead.Land also testified that he, like Hansen, is not a U.S. citizen by the definition of the 14th Amendment and other statutes, he said.
Common Law Courts
Love, who didn’t ask Hovind any questions, asked Land where the common law courts are convening. Land said it's happening in south Florida and even in Pensacola.
In a subsequent interview with Rudy Davis, Paul Hansen indicated that in his view all that it takes to set up a common law court is twelve godly men to make up a jury. In a 2011 story for KVNO news, Anti-government groups raise flag for law enforcement, Bill Kelly characterized Hansen as part of a "small group of anti-government activists who believe all federal and local laws are invalid"
He doesn’t have a driver’s license. He lives in Omaha and owns his vehicle. Paul Hansen doesn’t register it with Douglas County. If stopped for a traffic violation he’ll explain to the police officer that he “doesn’t use one.” His next step is to ask if the officer has “any evidence this land is owned by the United States of America. Do you understand that if you issue me a ticket you will be on the witness stand and you will have to produce that evidence?”In his interview with Davis, Hansen regretted that Love had not asked him abut common law courts. "Common law courts", as Hansen conceives them were a cause of significant concern to law enforcement in the nineties
A long fight for Hansen was coming to an end. Sentencing was near. Judge Rodgers asked Hansen if he had any mitigating statements. Maybe he was tired or maybe he was confused, but he asked Judge Rodgers for the definition of mitigating. She explained the term and said, "You're so well trained and educated, I'm surprised you don’t know those terms."
Hansen said he's spent 7,000 hours in jail. He talked about Biblical punishment, and he thinks he's served his time and that the time has served its purpose. He said if he had known he'd spend one day in jail, he wouldn't have mailed the letter.
"It was dumb what I did," he said.
What Hansen said next left Judge Rodgers puzzled.
"I apologize for my behavior due to ignorance, but I didn't mean to be ignorant," he said.
Judge Rodgers was curious exactly what Hansen was apologizing for, so she asked him. At first he said it was for if he "accidentally" did something criminal and that he didn't mean to do any harm. Finally, he clarified and said, "I apologize for not knowing I shouldn't have mailed the letter."
When Hansen was done, Love got up and talked about the rights of all Americans. He mentioned the naturalization ceremonies and how immigrants come to America to have rights not offered elsewhere. He pointed out to Hansen that he has been given all his rights even though he doesn’t want them.
Love continued by saying that Hansen, Hovind and their supporters might be "shocked" at the beliefs of he and others on the prosecution, implying that their views, most likely referring to religious views, are actually in line with each other.
Love ended his remarks by saying he's not asking for the maximum sentence, he just wants Hansen to be held accountable. He asked for the guideline sentence of 46-57 months.
Judge Rodgers, however, disagreed with the guideline sentence. She said it wasn't a just and fair sentence; it was greater. She thought his criminal history level was measured too high, since he had no significant time in jail and all charges were misdemeanor. But time served, as Hansen asked for, wasn't sufficient either.
Judge Rodgers wants Hansen to "promote a respect for the law as it exists today." To get to that point, she sentenced Hansen to 18 months in prison, with credit given to him for the last 10 months he's been in jail.
Judge Rodgers made clear that the sentence has nothing to do with any of Hansen's religious or sovereign citizen views.
"We don’t punish people in this country for their beliefs or opinions," she said.
The sentence was a response to what Judge Rodgers described as a threatening action.
"There is little that is more threatening to the fabric of society than someone taking action to thwart or ignore the law," she said. "You're subject to the same laws as everyone else in this courtroom."
About The Guidelines
The sentencing guidelines work by a table that cross references offense level with criminal history. There is no specified offense level for contempt, but the guidelines indicate that it is often similar to obstruction of justice which has an offense level of 14. There can be a three level enhancement for the interference with administration of justice being substantial, which is what the prosecutors claimed.
Hansen's very high criminal history level is apparently he result of his long battle with local authorities on issues like permits and traffic violations.
Judges have to justify deviations from the guidelines. Were Judge Rodgers not a lady judge we might say she has given herself a belt and suspenders if the sentence is appealed. She has put it in terms of downward variance from the guidelines, but if the offense level were set at 14 rather than 17 and Hansen were allowed a criminal history of zero, the sentence is right in the middle of the 15 to 21 months called for by the guidelines.
Release Not Likely
Hansen requested that he be released because it's been hard to build a defense in jail, and he plans on appealing. Judge Rodgers indicated that it would be highly unlikely she'd agree to that because one of the reasons for being at the sentencing hearing was that Hansen was found guilty of failure to appear in court. The courtroom, including Judge Rodgers, had to hold back a chuckle.
Hansen requested, at Judge Rodgers' inquiry, to be sent to the Federal Prison Camp of Pensacola since he intends on living in Florida when he's released, but the final decision is left up to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He has 14 days to file an appeal after the sentence is formally written sometime next week.
A handful of supporters were inside the courtroom for sentencing, while no protesters, who were so prevalent during the trial, were outside.
|No protesters at courthouse as Hansen is sentenced|
Rhonda Herrington, a correspondent for Pastor James David Manning's internet radio show "The Manning Report," traveled from Georgia to Hansen's sentencing. She first learned about Hovind and Hansen during the March trial, and she believes what's happened to them is an injustice.
"I was relieved (by the sentence)," she said. "I thought that she showed mercy. I didn't expect any mercy at all."