This post was originally published on Forbes May 21, 2015
It is pretty hard to surprise me, but Judge Margaret Casey's Rodgers's ruling reversing Kent Hovind's conviction for contempt of court did the trick. There was something of a one-two punch as I was also surprised over the weekend when the Government sought dismissal without prejudice of the remaining counts of the indictment, that the jury had not reached a verdict on in March. That had come in the wake of Judge Rodgers indicating that she was not open to a continuance to give the Government time to respond to defense motions.
For those of you just coming to this story, Kent Hovind is an Independent Baptist minister who is an advocate for Young Earth Creationism, the notion that you can arrive at the age of the Earth, roughly 6,000 years, by summing the begats in Genesis and tacking on seven 24 hour days. Doctor Dino, as he is called, nearing the end of a long prison sentence on tax-related charges, was facing new criminal charges because of filings he had made affecting title to property that the Government had seized as a result of his first conviction. His co-defendant, Paul Hansen, a trustee of Hovind's Christian Science Evangelism, faced similar charges. A jury found them guilty of contempt of court, but failed to reach a verdict on more serious fraud and conspiracy charges. Hence the trial scheduled to commence May 18th that was not to be.
Leading Up To Monday
So the expectation on Friday was that there would be oral arguments on Monday morning, followed by jury selection in the likely event that Judge Rodgers denied the defense motions for dismissal. What could possibly happen to change that short of a terrorist attack on Pensacola, an unpredicted hurricane or some other act of God? I wrote a post laying out the situation and scheduled it to publish at 7:30 AM on Monday, an hour and a half before court opened, allowing for the time difference. I had plans for the weekend.
Saturday night I was sitting in Union Station in Worcester Mass on my way to Union Station Washington DC, by way of the Port Authority Terminal in New York, where I would be meeting up with my son William. We were going to see a reimagining of the Grand Review that celebrated the preservation of the very Union commemorated in the station names. In the 2015 Grand Review, due note was made of the 200,000 odd African Americans who had helped preserve the Union and achieve their own liberation. In 1865, many of the United States Colored Troops regiments still in service were on their way to the Rio Grande.
That's when I got word by e-mail from Robert Baty, thought by some of Kent Hovind's supporters to be a paid government disinformation agent, that the Government was moving to dismiss the remaining counts without prejudice (Meaning they could refile). That took some quick rewriting as I was waiting for the Greyhound to arrive. I ended up doing better than the Pensacola News Journal, which apparently did not have somebody checking PACER for them every hour or so.
The Grand Review went off flawlessly by the way, although I was disappointed that it was not better publicized.
In And Around The Court On Monday
Dee Holmes was on the scene and gave a report on what happened in the courtroom on Monday, which I published yesterday. Jonathan Schwartz was outside filming
Jonathan interviewed a Hovind supporter who emerged
Highlights are that the Government asked for dismissal without prejudice. Defense asked for dismissal with prejudice. Judge indicated that she would not have ruled in favor of the defense motion for dismissal. The judge indicated that she would be issuing two rulings, one on the Government's motion and another on a motion to acquit Kent Hovind on his contempt conviction. Paul Hansen raised an interesting legal argument.
Not On Federal Land?
Paul Hansen challenged the right of federal prosecutor, Tiffany Hope Eggers, to practice law in that courthouse, since it is not on land owned by the federal government. Hovind supporters think that Eggers apparent non-answer to that challenge is of great significance. Hansen has notified Ms. Eggers that her failure to have him released could subject her to damages that can be determined by a "local court of record".
This type of activity, which is associated with what has been called the "sovereign citizen movement", is sometimes referred to as "paper terrorism". As far as I can tell, Hansen would probably object to those characterizations. In the comment sections of of one of the many blog posts I have read in the last few months, someone indicated that Hansen style "courts of record" tend to be a bunch of guys sitting around in Denny's, causing one wag to wonder whether appeals might be to the International House of Pancakes.
One of my legal experts, misunderstanding my question, assured me that Hansen has no cause of action against Ms. Eggers
Prosecutors have absolute, unqualified immunity from civil damages suits for their actions taken in the exercise of prosecutorial authority and discretion. And federal prosecutors enjoy complete protection under the Supremacy Clause from attempts in any non-federal court to interfere with or punish their exercise of authority.
Of course Hansen has a different reading of the Supremacy clause.
What I had really wanted to know was whether Hansen could get himself in further trouble for trying this stuff on a federal prosecutor. One of my other experts commented.
Most of what these guys do is foolish, going on legal. There may be some perhaps good points buried deeply in their aberrant behavior, but their aberrant behavior obscures whatever good points may be in there.
At the end of the day, I hope that all of your time spent on the project can be turned into something good. Perhaps a book on tax proestors / defiers.
Forbes contributor JJ MacNab, who has written a soon to be released book, The Seditionists: Inside the Explosive World of Anti-Government Extremism in America commented
Probably not. Threatening to sue someone in a fake court isn’t going to get a real grand jury all hot and bothered.
When Is Kent Hovind Going Home And What Will He Do When He Gets There?
Kent has a release date of August 9, 2015 on his previous sentence. He indicated that he had already been approved for home release, but there is now something of a bureaucratic snafu which has been the focus of much of the activity on Rudy Davis's LoneStar1776. It is a long tale with Kafkaesque elements. Kent lays it out here in an appeal to Charles E. Samuels, Jr., Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons
Apparently both the US Marshalls and the Bureau of Prisons have been getting a lot of phone calls from Hovind's supporters.
From his discussions with Rudy, it seems like Kent is planning on having a number of Dinosaur Adventrurelands throughout the country , rather than taking the Disney approach of two really big destination parks. Ernie Land, Kent's long time friend, trusted advisor, consiglere, told me that there are businessmen ready to back a good sized park. One of the conditions of their support would be Kent becoming conventionally tax compliant.
In an interview in February, I asked Kent if he might be willing to accept the notion that ordinary Americans with more than insubstantial income are required to file Form 1040 and pay federal income tax. He indicated that even though he is one of those who does not compromise very easily, he might consider it.
The ruling by Judge Rodgers acquitting Kent Hovind was the result of work by what Hansen and Ernie Land refer to as "bar licensed attorneys", who refuse to use the killer arguments such as "territorial jurisdiction" that they expect will bring the whole system crashing down before long. So Kent may decide to also take a conventional approach to the over $3,000,000 in tax and penalty assessed against him for many years of not filing individual returns (That behavior was never criminally prosecuted by the way). If he does and gets someone with significant experience dealing with IRS collections to work out an offer in compromise or a payment plan, he may well find that future conventional tax compliance is a requirement.
That might be a crossroads for Kent Hovind. His war with the IRS had made him popular in the conspiracy community, but has probably hurt his reputation with Creation Science groups and more conventional Evangelical Christians. Right now he appears to be in a position to declare victory and go home. The best strategy might be to focus on ministry while hurling the occasional imprecation at the government, but staying in compliance with the tax laws as ordinary people and like the entire federal judiciary understand them.
Kent Hovind's supporters give all the glory for the victory to God, but that does not mean that they have not been working very hard. Their efforts remind me of the Jesuit saying - Pray as if everything depended on God. Work as if everything depended on you.
The Hovindicators have been waging a vigorous social media campaign on Kent's behalf. There is the flagship website #FreeKent and Rudy Davis's youtube channel LoneStar1776 with Ernie Land in the background.
There is just a bit of murkiness about who managed the excellent legal work that won Kent's acquittal. The way Kent's legal defense funds were channeled changed a few times, with the last stop being the United States Justice Foundation, which according to Ernie for unknown reasons has backed away from the case. Nonetheless, the attorneys hired by them continued assisting Kent's federal public defender Thomas Keith. I have reached out to those attorneys, but have not heard back. At the hearing Monday Keith apparently apologized for not making the motion sooner.
For whatever it is worth, one of my experts questions whether Judge Rodgers got it right.
The ruling is pretty straight-forward. The point is that the order did not specifically preclude him filing a lis pendens. I am not sure that that is correct. If a court order requires something (here forfeiture), I think it necessarily precludes the party subject to the order from doing something that would defeat the purpose of the order. If, for example, she had ordered forfeiture of cash that Hovind had and, rather than giving the cash to the Government, he burned it, I think that would be subject to the contempt power. Here, he impaired the Government’s ability to realize on the forfeiture order, which was the Government’s point for why he should be held in contempt of the clear forfeiture order.
The feds still have a few weeks to appeal her ruling.
There is, of course, some obvious clean-up work for the Hovindicators since Kent is not actually free yet and they are still concerned about Paul Hansen, who faces sentencing in June on his contempt conviction. Of course, the goals of Hovindication were larger than getting Kent out of this prosecution. They also want to reverse his 2006 conviction, have all the seized property returned, the government to compensate Kent Hovind for his unjust imprisonment and launch a Congressional investigation into all the IRS wrongdoing in his case. It will be interesting to see whether "Free Kent" will keep going once Kent is free.
Predictions Are Hard To Make Especially About The Future
I was probably wrong when I recently predicted that this case would be going for a long time, since I thought that it was virtually certain that Kent Hovind would be sentenced to some more time, possibly as much as three years, in June. Still if I go back to my earliest comments on this particular prosecution, I can give myself credit for just a bit of foresight back last July when in a piece titled Time To Let Kent Hovind Go Home? I wrote:
Having Kent Hovind do more time for having something filed that did not do him any good seems to be a poor use of government resources. If he has a jury trial and is acquitted, which strikes me as a distinct possibility, it will be trumpeted as a major victory in the tax protester community. (Note Kent Hovind does not consider himself a tax protester). If he is convicted and sentenced to serve more time, he will be viewed as a martyr. Either way I don’t see this effort as encouraging people to be more tax compliant, which is really the point of criminal prosecution