This post was originally published on Forbes May 18, 2015
There was some hope that Kent Hovind and Paul Hansen who came into a federal courtroom in Pensacola in shackles this morning might have been set free. People with such hopes are likely disappointed, but those who have been following the case are hardly surprised.
A Flurry Of Motions
People who have been following the Kent Hovind trial were taken by surprise this weekend as the federal government moved to drop, without prejudice, the remaining charges against Hovind and Hansen (In March they were convicted on charges of contempt of court, but the jury did not reach a verdict on more serious fraud and conspiracy charges. Jury selection for retrial on those charges was scheduled to begin this morning.)
More or less at the eleventh hour, the United States Justice Foundation assisted Hovind's attorney Thomas Keith and Hansen, who is pro se on this round, in submitting a motion to have the charges dropped. The United States requested a continuance to respond to the motion. Judge Rodgers indicated that she was not inclined to grant a continuance and scheduled oral arguments on the motions this morning with jury selection to follow, if the motions were not allowed. Then came the big surprise. The United States moved to dismiss the remaining charges without prejudice. (Meaning, as I understand it, that the charges can be refiled).
My Boots On The Ground
Jonathan Schwartz is in Pensacola covering the court proceedings and, possibly more interesting, the activities of Kent Hovind's supporters and the background story in Pensacola.
Inside The Courtroom
Dee Holmes, who has been blogging on the case on a site title Hovindology - It's about the taxes, not the dinos was inside the courtroom this morning, while Jonathan was outside filming the Hovindicactors. The proceedings were somewhat difficult to follow, something also noted by the people who were covering the story for Rudy Davis.
Dee reported that Judge Margaret Casey Rodgers wanted it on the record that she would have ruled against the Hovind/Hansen motions to dismiss the charges. Judge Rodgers showed no patience for Paul Hansen's sovereign citizen style motion that federal prosecutor Tiffany Hope Eggers be required to prove that she is authorized to practice in federal court. She indicated that she would be issuing an order this afternoon on this morning's proceedings and also ruling on Hovind's Rule 29 motion to have his March conviction reversed.
Attorney Christopher Klotz was present. Klotz had represented Hansen in the previous trial and was on standby for this trial, Hansen referring to the arrangement as "sixth amendment counsel". Hansen and Kent Hovind's consigliere, Ernie Land, don't like using "bar licensed" attorneys, since as officers of the court they will not make the killer motions on "territorial jurisdiction" and the like that will someday turn the whole system on its head.
Both Klotz and Hansen's attorney, Thomas Keith, indicated that they may not have done enough for their clients in the way of motions to dismiss and the like. I wonder if the guys are falling on their swords to help with an "ineffective assistance of counsel" argument.
They also moved that the charges be dismissed with prejudice.
Hansen argued that he should be released since he had already served enough time to cover the contempt charge. I'm not sure that is accurate. Judge Rodgers didn't let either one of them go indicating that Hovind is in the custody of BOP and Hansen's custody is by order of the court where he was picked up.
Dee was pretty impressed by the heavy US Marshall presence. Jonathan indicated that it was not appreciably different than the last time.
Jonathan reports that the mood of the Hovindicators, which was briefly jubilant over the weekend, has become more subdued and skeptical.
Here is a report that Joshua Joscelyn made to Rudy Davis, which is pretty consistent with Dee's report.
From The Brain Trust
I reached out to my legal brain trust over the weekend and managed to get the following off the record speculative commentary.
They have decided that they can get whatever they want out of this case at sentencing on the counts where the jury convicted at trial. Dismissing the mistried counts allows the case to proceed promptly to sentencing on the convictions. The "without prejudice" stipulation protects the govt -- allowing potential reinstatement later, that is -- in the event that the conviction counts are overturned on appeal following sentencing. It is possible that this was prompted, in part, by the recent defense motion challenging the remaining counts and pointed out some of their weak spots, but not necessarily. The govt rarely backs down from a legal fight unless they are clearly going to lose, and I didn't think it was so clear.
Another expert had the following comment without time to look into the motions.
One thing, though, that you might check is whether the Government still has an open statute of limitations based on the last act relevant to each Count being dismissed. My recollection is that the statute may be open, but don’t know that.
And, I suppose that, if the Judge feels it appropriate, she could signal the Government that it is now time to call a halt to all of this.
Thanks To Bob Baty
I want to thank Roberty Baty for giving me the heads up on the government's last minute motion. His coverage on the case has been very thorough, despite being a bit cranky at times.
Why I'm Behind On My Hovindology
I was spending yesterday at my final Sesquicentennial event, a recreation of the Grand Review of the Armies that was put on with much effort by the African American Civil War Museum. It was a great event although I was disappointed by the low public interest.