The Pensacola News Journal of Pensacola, Florida has a report on the trial’s first two days. We assume the trial is in Pensacola because a federal courthouse is conveniently located in what had been the home of Hovind’s creationist “ministry” and his Dinosaur Adventure Land, which are among the properties confiscated by the feds to pay Hovind’s back taxes.
Our last post on this topic was Hovind Trial: Flood of Drool Hits Pensacola. The next few indented paragraphs provide background information, which most of you can skip:
Hovind contested the original tax charges against him, and lost. Then he appealed and lost. He’s been in prison for eight years, during which he also contested the seizure of his property, and was unsuccessful in that. He had his day in court. Now he’s being charged with fraudulently trying to stop the feds from selling property that the courts have already determined was lawfully taken from him.
He filed lis pendens documents attempting to cloud the government’s title to the confiscated property. Here’s a link to the text of the indictment. Hovind is a martyr to two different groups of people, and his behavior suggests a certain similarity between them — see Creationists and Tax Protesters.
Hovind ‘s co-defendant is John Paul Hansen, who seems to have been providing Hovind with advice in these matters. Hansen is also facing mail fraud charges in connection with the lis pendens filing on the real estate that the government had seized.
Okay, the Pensacola News Journal has this headline: Hovind’s ‘fight’ continues in court. An icon will get you to comments after the story.
Their article may be the worst example of courthouse reporting we’ve ever seen. They don’t mention that jury selection was swiftly accomplished on Monday, and they also don’t mention that the lawyers made their opening statements to the jury on Tuesday. Instead, they write up the events described in the opening statements as if they were testimony and evidence actually presented in the trial. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
For years, Pensacola evangelist Kent Hovind and his trustee Paul John Hansen have been stubbornly resisting a court-ordered forfeiture of more than $400,000 worth of Hovind’s property. Their struggles — dozens of filings that appeal, question or protest the government’s right to sell the land — have landed the duo in front of a federal judge facing decades on charges of fraud and contempt.
Yes, we know all that. Let’s read on:
During the first day of testimony in their trial Tuesday, Hovind and Hansen’s defense attorneys told jurors that while the actions of the men may have been ineffectual — perhaps even ill-advised — they were not illegal. “Every single step of the way Mr. Hovind and the people of his church fought to hang on to his property,” Hansen’s attorney Christopher Klotz said. “Mr. Hovind is a notorious fighter. He has fought every single step of the way, and he has a right to do that.”
As we said, this is wretched reporting. A lawyer’s opening statement to the jury is not testimony. He’s merely telling the jury what the evidence is going to show them. Anyway, the news story continues:
Much of the day Tuesday was spent laying out the background of the case. The litigation is essentially over 10 pieces of Pensacola property that housed Hovind’s family, his Creation Science Evangelism ministry and his Dinosaur Adventure Land theme park. The government seized the land to settle a $430,400 debt after Hovind was convicted in 2006 of failing to withhold employee wage taxes and structuring bank withdrawals to skirt reporting requirements.
If opening statements were on Tuesday, then it’s obvious that the jury was selected on Monday. Such things usually occur swiftly in Federal courts. Those judges don’t let lawyers turn trials into a circus. Here’s more:
Hovind and trustees of his ministry have been appealing ever since, and the government was eventually granted an injunction barring Hovind and his ministry interest from filing claims, liens and other motions on the property. Instead of heeding the injunction, Hovind questioned its legality and filed a “lis pendes” [sic] — a motion that warns potential buyers the ownership of a property is under dispute. He also brought in Hansen — a Nebraska-based “student and scholar of church law” — to act as trustee of the properties.
The government alleges the men committed mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud through their filings. Hovind also is charged with contempt of court for violating the injunction, and Hansen is charged with contempt for failing to travel from Nebraska to Pensacola (at the government’s expense) for fingerprinting.
Yup — that’s a summary of what the feds intend to prove. Moving along:
Thomas Keith, Hovind’s attorney, essentially told jurors his client’s current charges were the result of him lawfully disagreeing with the powers that be. “He has the truest belief that he was wrongfully sentenced and convicted, and he’s been fighting it, lawfully, in every legal way that he thinks he can. … It’s not illegal to file motions in court, and that’s what he’s doing.”
Generally, filing motions isn’t illegal; but Hovind’s objections had all been dealt with, and he allegedly violated an injunction by persevering in his antics. Another excerpt:
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany Eggers read transcripts of a phone call from Hovind to his daughter in which Hovind reportedly discussed his lis pendes [sic]. “Have you ever taken a step into dog crap and it gets stuck on your feet and it’s really hard to get off?” he reportedly asked. “That’s what a lis pendes [sic] is.”
Charming. One last excerpt, from something said by the attorney for Hovind’s co-defendant:
“There is a mountain of evidence, but I expect you’re not going to find one shred of evidence that Mr. Hansen acted with the intent to defraud anybody, or take anything that didn’t belong to them, or deny the government of the $430,400 it was owed,” Klotz said. “He just did what he thought he had to as a trustee.”
So there you are. Now the actual testimony begins. We hope the reporter does a better job in the future. If not, no problem. Your Curmudgeon will be here to set things straight. Stay tuned to this blog.
Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.