the 2015 trial of Kent Hovind had a team of journalists covering the trial. And they uncovered a heck of a story.
About Kent Hovind
Kent Hovind is an independent Baptist minister with pretensions of scientific expertise. He is a Young Earth Creationist, believing, as is implied by a hyper literal reading of the Book of Genesis, that the world is roughly six thousand years old and that human beings and dinosaurs existed contemporaneously.
Acceptance of YEC requires belief in a massive conspiracy involving a large swath of the scientific community. Not just biologists, since six thousand years is not nearly enough time for evolution to work, but also geologists and astronomers. I'm sure there's more.
If you believe in that big a conspiracy, it is easy to believe in others. So it is perhaps not surprising that Hovind also believed that the income tax laws as they are generally understood do not really apply to most ordinary Americans. That requires a conspiracy that includes pretty much the entire federal judiciary and the executive branch for over a century.
In the view of the conventionally tax compliant that is what got Hovind in trouble with the federal government. He has a fairly passionate vocal group of supporters (I call them Hovindicators) that accept his narrative that he has paid every tax that he has ever owed and was a victim of religious persecution when he served 9 years in prison on an indictment which did not include tax evasion as one of the charges. Most of the counts were "structuring" - making withdrawals of slightly less than $10,000 to avoid bank reporting of cash transactions.
Last year's trial was for actions he took to affect the title to property that had been seized by the government as a result of his previous conviction. He was convicted on one of three counts and the jury did not reach a verdict on two other counts. There was a retrial scheduled, but the government backed off and prior to sentencing the conviction, contempt of court, was thrown out thanks to work by the United States Justice Foundation.
So Kent Hovind was released on schedule and is now rebuilding his ministry. The new Christian Science Evangelism has acquired property in Lenox Alabama where Kent and a variable team of volunteers are creating a bigger better Dinosaur Adventure Land. Kent has been going great guns on youtube
He has also been doing speaking tours. Kent's close friend and advisor, Ernie Land, has assured me that the new CSE will be conventionally tax compliant. Ernie appears to be taking care of that aspect of things.
I began covering the Hovind story in 2012, when Jo Delia Hovind found herself in Tax Court. My primary writing gig is on forbes.com. I'm a tax blogger. I at least look at every federal court decision concerning taxes, a large number of state decisions and a variety of rulings by the IRS. I write about the ones that I find interesting. Among my criteria are humor and what I call "matter for reflection", the way in which tax law intersects with other areas particularly religious liberty.
So that story was right up my alley. I thought it was hilarious. The comments section had people debating the merits of Young Earth Creationism, which made it ever more fun. It also sealed the loyalty of my most constant commenter, Robert Baty.
Bob Baty began following me because of my coverage of the parsonage issue. He had been trying to get me interested in Young Earth Creationism, but I would not bite until Jo Delia's Tax Court decision came along. Thanks to all the interest I did further research on Hovind and even had some brief contact with him through the prison email system. The result was one of the highest traffic pieces that I ever produced - Not Income Tax Evasion - Structuring - That's How They Got Kent Hovind.
Forbes.com pays based on traffic and as Dr. Johnson said "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money". Tax blogging is much less lucrative than the underlying professional activity. You don't see tax bloggers giving up their day jobs, but one of my ambitions is to become the first. So now I was hooked and when Hovind was charged with a new crime nearly two years ago, I was all over it.
The Hovindication movement managed to touch just about every base in the right wing conspiracy bubble, including Alex Jones
I thought there was a great chance that it would break into the mainstream media. The Hovindicators were one step from being featured by that loudmouth on Fox, that some of my relatives fear may be related to us. It seemed that my diligent Hovind coverage might be my ticket to the big time. So I made a huge decision, one that for me is heart rending. I decided to spend some money.
As I often remark I am not an investigative reporter, but it happens that I know one. That would be Jonathan Schwartz of Interlock Media. With my grudging, chintzy financial support Jonathan assembled a team to cover the trial after recording a telephone interview by me with Kent Hovind
The Story Behind The Story Behind The Story
The coverage of the first trial was quite good, but it was in the aftermath that the team outdid themselves. The Hovindicators had hoped that jury nullification might save the day for them and to a great extent they turned out to be right. The jury hung on more serious charges and only convicted on contempt of court. Jonathan and his team identified the hold- out juror, Don Camacho, and interviewed him
They also interviewed another juror who had butted heads with Camacho
And someone who knew both Camacho and Hovind. Dr. Ward Dean had been in a militia group with Camacho and had become Hovind's IRS battle buddy around the turn of the millenium
Ben Sheffler has written an account of his experience working as part of the team and that will be published here on Monday.
A Bridge Too Far
Jonathan produced a short piece that pulled all the elements of the story together. It is called Dr. Dino: Creationism, Conspiracy, Conceit - The Politics of Wrath
At 10:38, it is really worth the investment of lifespan so I recommend that you check it out.
You will note that I am cited in the video as a "Hovind expert". Personally, I prefer Hovindologist, but I'm not that picky. I have made a copy available on my youtube channel for convenience, but the original publication was by Interlock Media. Although I provided substantial support for the project, I did not want to be the original publisher, because I believe that the solid journalism in the first eight minutes is marred by excessive speculation in the end.
The theory expounded is intriguing. We do know that Camacho managed to convince the other jurors to report that they were deadlocked on two of the charges by agreeing to convict on contempt of court. We know that Camacho was recognized as being on the jury by Ernie Land, who had some sort of acquaintanceship with Camacho. We know that Ernie Land was working with USJF and that USJF would get the contempt conviction overturned.
So maybe USJF had told Ernie that getting contempt overturned was a slam dunk and Ernie somehow let Camacho know that that was the charge that he could vote guilty on in order to end the jury deliberations.
Laying out that theory is the last two minutes of the video. I think it greatly detracts from its value. The evidence is just not there and using Occam's razor you can account for what happened without assuming any contact between Camacho and Ernie Land.
The leap that Interlock made in this speculation is tiny compared to the type of things that Hovindicators will pick up and run with - like Rudy Davis indicating that prosecutor Pamela Marsh was a Jesuit because she went to Georgetown.
Cutest Jesuit I have ever seen.
Still I hold members of the reality based community, like Jonathan Schwartz, to a much higher standard. I think that too much exposure to the Hovindicators might have had its effect.
For whatever it is worth I ran the theory by Ernie Land. He wrote back to me:
Also on the record Camacho never recognized me at the Court, so once again that is like the theory of evolution, which is false. Camacho is a good man, who did not need any guidance in his beliefs or actions. Yes, I knew him prior to the trial, but it was just as an acquaintance.