This post was originally published on Forbes Feb 27, 2015Kent Hovind goes on trial Monday in the United States Courthouse in Pensacloa Fl. Kent Hovind is an Independent Baptist minister whose main focus has been on Young Earth Creationism - the notion that there is scientific, not just scriptural, evidence that the physical universe is roughly 6,000 years old. Kent is nearing the end of a long prison sentence for tax related crimes arising out of the manner in which his ministry, Creation Science Evangelism, operated. CSE distributed Kent's videos and ran a theme park called Dinosaur Adventureland (One of the implications of YEC is that people and dinosaurs must have existed contemporaneously)
The current charges are related to Hovind's original conviction, which he still hopes to have reversed. Kent and his co-defendant Paul John Hansen are accused of arranging for the filing of a lis pendens on property seized by the government in accordance with orders related to Hovind's original conviction. According to the indictment they are being charged with fraud and contempt of court.
Not Kent's First Trial
I've been following the travails of Kent Hovind for over two years. I started with the Tax Court decision in the case of his wife. Given Hovind's criminal problems, the civil liability for income tax of over $3,000,000 pales in comparison, but even that is an interesting story and it ends up intertwining with the rest of his issues. As I delved deeper into the field of Hovindology, I learned that Kent had renounced his social security number in the 1970s and had been a defiant non-filer for decades.
His criminal conviction was not however for tax evasion. He was convicted in 2006 on a 58 count indictment which included one count of interfering with the administration of the internal revenue laws, twelve counts of failing to withhold and pay payroll taxes and 45 counts of structuring (systematically withdrawing amounts somewhat less than $10,000 to avoid currency reporting requirements). The conviction was upheld on appeal to the Eleventh Circuit. In addition to the prison sentence, there was property forfeited. The filing of the lis pendens, the basis for the current charges, is related to some of the seized property.
Kent Hovind is being represented by a public defender and Paul John Hansen is representing himself, with a public defender standing by. Judge Margaret Casey Rodgers will preside. At the time of her appointment by George W Bush in 2003, Judge Rodgers was the youngest woman to ever serve as a federal judge. Judge Rodgers presided over Hovind's trial in 2006.
Kent Hovind has also been seeking another trial in the court of public opinion, giving interviews and asking supporters to make noise and shine light. As the proceedings go on in the courtroom, we will get to see the outcome of the second trial in the streets of Pensacola next week. It is not inconceivable that Kent Hovind will be this year's Cliven Bundy firing up the passion of right wing anti-government activists. My feel for how things have been going makes me think it is not that likely, but I am not ready to hazard a strong prediction on the outcome of either trial.
Here is some background on both the judicial trial and the public opinion trial that might help you follow along if this story which of late has mainly been playing out in an extreme right echo chamber breaks into the mainstream. We'll tackle the court of public opinion first.
Kent Hovinds supporters who now must number at least in the thousands are framing his prosecution as a case of the government, which is under the control of the forces of the New World Order, persecuting a godly man for his effectiveness in exposing the lies of evolution. In their view, the lie of evolution is a crucial part of the vast conspiracy that is going to engulf us. If we believe that we just evolved rather than having been created by a God, who has given us instructions on how to live our lives, there is no basis for any sort of morality.
According to his supporters, Kent Hovind was so effective in exposing the lie that it was necessary to have him incarcerated on trumped up charges. He has done over eight years in prison for taking money out of the bank to pay the bills of his ministry and for praying for an IRS agent who was harassing him and now they want to keep him in prison for the rest of his life for mailing a letter. The lis pendens was a kind gesture to warn people about the risks they faced from purchasing a property that had been illegally seized by the federal government.
The flagship website of the Hovindicators, as I call them, is #FreeKent. Kent's most exuberant supporter is Rudy Davis whose youtube channel LoneStar1776 has touched on topics such as the dubious citizenship of our President and the notion that Galileo was wrong. Rudy' channel has been pretty much all Doc Dino all the time for a while. Kent Hovind calls in from the Santa Rosa County Jail close to daily and sometimes more. Both #FreeKent, whose management is anonymous, and Rudy Davis, focus quite a bit on how altogether wicked the prosecutors and Margaret Casey Rodgers are.
Rudy's exuberance in calling down the judgement of God on those who persecute the godly can in the view of some cross the lines into being threatening. Rudy was visited by the Secret Service once because of things that he had said about the President. Specifically he volunteered to carry out the execution, by beheading, after the President was convicted of treason. Now he has attracted the attention of the US Marshals, whose duties include protecting federal judges.
[Note: In the video which has been taken down Rudy discussed hearing from his employer about a US Marshal seeking him out. It was really classic Rudy, so I am sad that it came down. Here is another example of Rudy's work, possibly the video that got the marshals interested in him.]
The most prominent Hovindicators that I have been able to identify so far are Reverend Wiley Drake, Pastor James David Manning, Pete Santilli, Coach Dave Daubenmire , Joyce Riley ,George Lujack , Chuck Baldwin and Don Bidondi. They all seem to have significant followings, but somehow the story has not made it to Fox. My canary in the cave mine on this is Reverend William Thornton who blogs on Southern Baptist issues (Wiley Drake was second vice president of the Southern Baptist Conference which is either the largest or second largest Christian denomination in the United States, depending on how you count Catholics). Reverend Thornton has yet to hear anything about Kent Hovind other than from me, which makes me think that the streets of Pensacola will not be flooded by Christian soldiers demanding freedom for Kent next week, but we will soon see.
Needless to say, I don't think that the Hovindication narrative (Kent Hovind has not broken any laws, has paid all the taxes that he owes and is not a tax protester) holds up all that well. I discuss that in some detail in this post - Has Kent Hovind Broken Any Laws?. A site that is highly critical of Kent Hovind is Kent Hovind and Jo Hovind V USA - IRS. I think that Bob Baty who runs the site with Dee Holmes sometimes makes ungrounded speculations and has an abrasive style that has gotten him banned from some sites where he shared his obsessions. with the less obsessed. The site does have the virtue of being through and includes links to many original source documents. Bob, who is retired and has a lot of time on his hands when the grandchildren aren't visiting, seems to sit by Pacer ready to disseminate each motion as it is released. Hovindicators are convinced that Bob Baty is a paid disinformation agent of the New World Order.
The Upcoming Judicial Trial
Throughout my career I have been blessed with a client base which is what I would refer to as "conventionally tax compliant". Although they might vary as to how much they choose to push the envelope in gray areas, none of them believe that the Internal Revenue Code is extremely narrow in its scope or utterly invalid. I did have a former client and friend who fell into the type of thinking that got Kent Hovind in trouble, so I understand the arguments, but I don't have practical experience in helping people out of the holes they dig for themselves or practical insight into how federal law enforcement chooses the very few people who are prosecuted for this type of activity. Thus I have a hard time handicapping the judicial trial.
I consulted two experts, one of whom prefers to stay off the record. Let's call the first one Joe. He is an expert on criminal tax issues. His analysis of why DOJ Tax has to pay attention to Hovind is that he is a prominent true believer who justifies anti-social behavior. He is more or less in the same category as Irwin Schiff. Joe further opines that when DOJ Tax sets their sights on a tax protester, he goes down. They are good at choosing the specific charge that will most likely yield a conviction.
The expert who gives me just a tad of optimism for Kent Hovind is William McGane who has written about lis pendens. Apparently lis pendens is a very privileged filing. The only way that filing one is fraudulent is if there is absolutely no sort of litigation to which it refers. Jury instruction that Hovind's public defender is seeking focuses a lot on the element of willfulness and Hovind in his statements has been indicating that he is not that up on all the details. So a lack of willfulness defense just might work. The Hovindicators have been promoting jury nullification, so a hung jury is not out of the question
Paul John Hansen has made motions to the effect that the District Court does not have authority over him. Not surprisingly Judge Rodgers has ruled against him Ernie Land, Kent's main spokesman, kind of Hovindicator in chief believes that Hansen will end up at the Supreme Court and possibly the International Court in the Hague.
Now the twist is Paul did not ask the Judge for her permission to require the U.S. Attorney to place into evidence the burden of proof of jurisdiction and when the Prosecutor told the court “This is the U.S. Government, we have consent of the Governed” in response, notice Paul objected and said, “I am not one of the Governed, and you do not have my consent.” The Judge didn’t know when Paul gave her Judicial notice on Article 1 section 8(17) what he was talking about or said she didn’t (haha), and once he replied “It’s the U.S. Constitution, the one you gave oath to uphold.” She told him he would not speak to her that way, but went on the tell the Prosecutor the she as Judge would be ruling according to law. The genius move by Paul is 2 fold, first he didn’t challenge the Court he challenged the accuser, who will not be able to by fact of law show jurisdiction in this court, and #2, the jury now gets to hear what the prosecutor does not want heard. They may win, but so many Constitutional arguments are now in place this will move on to the supreme court in State versus man, and they WILL Have to hear it without objection or it will be heard in the International Court. You see they win, they still lose. The best out this Judge has is a dismissal on some procedural error.
Paul John Hansen strikes me as the co-defendant from hell. I will not be surprised if Kent ends up having an ineffective assistance of counsel appeal for not getting severed from Hansen's prosecution.
How I Am Rooting
Kent's son Eric has followed in his father's footsteps in preaching the "creation science" message but has stayed away from the rest of the conspiracy theories that Kent mentions. Eric has also been conventionally tax compliant. It is rather ironic because an ordained minister running a ministry who lives modestly doesn't really have to pay much in the way of taxes. At any rate, Eric has not publicly commented on his father's problems recently. He did give me this yesterday
I believe the only quote I can give now is that I love my dad and am praying for this entire trial.
Ernie Land has told me that if Kent Hovind gets out, he will become conventionally tax compliant. So a good outcome of the trial might be conviction for Hansen and acquittal for Hovind, with Hovind following through on Ernie's prediction. That's the way I am rooting now. I'm also rooting for peace in Pensacola and for Hovindicators to let God be the one who judges the judge.
One of the most challenging things about following this case for me is that Hovindicators tend to favor videos and podcasts over the written word. Here is the latest discussion between Pete Santilli and Rudy Davis which will give you a good flavor of Hovindication if you have the lifespan to spare.
Here Rudy comments on his video that was taken down.
Here is a story by Ben Shefler of Hovindicators meeting on the eve of the trial.
Rudy Davis has arrived.
Here is footage of Rudy Davis and some of the others this morning.