I recently posted a piece that is somewhat of a critical of a short documentary by Interlock Media called Dr. Dino: Creationism, Conspiracy, Conceit - The Politics of Wrath
Although I have concerns about the speculations that the piece concludes with, I also think that there was some great journalism done as part of the effort. This is a report from Ben Sheffler, who was part of Jonathan Schwartz's Interlock Media team on his part in the coverage.
This short video beautifully encapsulates Kent Hovind and his 2015 mail fraud trial. While it does give a brief history of Hovind, I think the most interesting parts of the video are the interviews with two of the jurors, because in the end, that's whose opinions really mattered during the trial. I think we were fortunate that we got to interview them, because they were under no obligation to talk. They also knew how hostile the situation had become—security escorting them to and from their cars, being sequestered for lunch, and being the target of several protesters outside the courthouse. Their recount of the jury deliberations was fascinating.
I remember how exciting it was to identify, locate and talk to the two jurors. We started with just some names and numbers, neither of which were actually the jurors'. But one lead led to another, and we eventually reached the right people. Working with limited time, the team sat in a hotel room on Pensacola Beach and began to contact Don Zehr. We had information that he was connected to a local downtown Pensacola business. We searched the Internet for about 15 minutes trying to identify him or his family. We thought we had found the right person and business, but it was after business hours and I didn't think it was worth it to make the call. Never again will I make that mistake, because sure enough his wife answered and led us straight to him.
For Don Camacho, I made the call myself and spoke with his wife, this time just outside the lobby of the same hotel, while the others worked in a nearby conference room. She was very nice and said she'd pass along my request to speak with her husband when he got home. But I had to ask before hanging up the phone if he was the lone juror that likely kept Hovind from getting another prison sentence. To my surprise and elation, she said, with a little chuckle, Camacho was in fact that juror. I couldn't believe it. It was like winning the lottery. Of the 10 other jurors, we happened to have a connection to the one who made all the difference. I could barely contain myself when I went to tell everyone else in the conference room. Later that day, Camacho called us back.
These jurors obviously wanted to tell their stories, and the way in which we made contact with them—catching breaks—makes it seem like it was meant to be. And apparently, we weren't the only ones who had a connection to Camacho. As the video pointed out, Ernie Land made public on Facebook that he knew one of the jurors, and through process of elimination we thought it must be Camacho.
The verdict for Kent Hovind came March 22, 2015 after eight hours of deliberations. The jury said they were "hopelessly deadlocked" on several charges, including his two mail fraud charges and one attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud charge, and they were unable to agree on a verdict. He was found guilty of his contempt of court charge, which came from violating a 2007 court order. properties. Hovind was released from federal prison in July 2015 after serving nearly a decade behind bars.
Much of Hovind's problems has come from people he surrounded himself with. He sought legal and professional advice from people who have little to no credentials. Glen Stoll, who set up the Creation Science Evangelism trust? He was found by a federal court in 2005 in Washington to have falsely claimed to be a lawyer who sold fraudulent "ministerial trust" plans, which clients believed allowed them to not pay federal income tax or file federal income tax returns. Paul Hansen, Hovind's co-defendant in the 2015 trial and head of the CSE trust? He once sold presentations on filing common law liens for $25 and in 2013 was enjoined by the Supreme Court of Nebraska from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in which he had been doing. The court said that "Hansen’s conduct is deceptive and poses the type of risk of harm to the public that our unauthorized practice rules are intended to prevent." It seems that Hovind took that risk and suffered for it. Whether he did it knowingly with malice or unknowingly with naivety, I don't think we'll ever know for sure.
Ben Sheffler is a free lance journalist in Pensacola. You can follow him on Twitter @bensheffler
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