Our last post about this silly drama was Kent Hovind Trial: End of Week One. We didn’t give you any background information in that post, so we’ll include that in next few indented paragraphs, 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.
The new trial week starts today, so there’s no real news yet, but we found some commentary by Peter J. Reilly in Forbes. His column is titled Pensacola Shows Little Interest In Kent Hovind Trial. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
The United States will most likely rest its case in the prosecution of Young Earth Creationist Kent Hovind today and the defense may begin. It was expected that the government would be done Friday, but apparently they have a bit more to add.
“Apparently?” Reilly is relying on the same news sources we are, and as we’ve mentioned before, the courthouse reporting hasn’t been very good. If the feds had concluded their case on Friday, they would have announced to the judge that they “rested,” and the judge would likely have mentioned that the case for the defendants would start on Monday. Since that didn’t happen — or at least it wasn’t reported in the Pensacola News Journal, then Reilly is correct. The feds are still putting on their case. Then we’re told:
Much of the government’s case has been a parade of documents and experts authenticating the document. I have heard it said that much time and expense might have been avoided if Paul John Hansen had been willing to stipulate that documents signed and mailed by him, had been signed and mailed by him.
We assume that refers to the lis pendens documents that are the heart of the government’s prosecution. The fact that the defendants wouldn’t even acknowledge their signatures will not go unnoticed. The judge is undoubtedly annoyed by the waste of time, and we suspect that the jury will understand it too. They can’t be thrilled that they’ve had to sit through all that unnecessary technical testimony about obvious facts.
Then he tells about the testimony of Anthony Jaworski, who bought one of the properties from the feds which had previously been seized from Hovind:
… Jaworski said he was subject to “threats, abuse, mail harassment and terror,” including a letter from Hansen regarding the legality of his purchase of the property. Jaworski seemed uncomfortable on the stand and said he just wants to sell the property and move back home to Maryland.
As we understand it, that’s the sort of thing the defendants had previously been enjoined from doing. Nice guys, huh? Let’s read on:
The type of filings that people with beliefs like Paul John Hansen make are sometimes called, perhaps with a bit of hyperbole, ”paper terrorism”. Early on I had quite a bit of sympathy for Hovind thinking that the government might be piling on a bit. As long as Hansen and Hovind were carrying on a paper war with the United States I thought that going after them criminally was overkill. But Jaworski is a civilian so to speak and going after him with demands that he pay $100 a day to stay on property that he bought from the United States crosses a line in my mind.
The jury will probably be thinking the same thing. We continue:
On Friday Judge Rodgers indicated to the defense that she might not allow them to put on a “Cheek defense” referring to a Supreme Court decision in which it was ruled that a belief does not have to be “objectively reasonable” in order to show lack of “willfulness.”
That’s interesting. According to Wikipedia, Cheek v. United States was a 1991 decision by the US Supreme Court:
in which the Court reversed the conviction of John L. Cheek, a tax protester, for willful failure to file tax returns and tax evasion. The Court held that an actual good-faith belief that one is not violating the tax law, based on a misunderstanding caused by the complexity of the tax law, negates willfulness, even if that belief is irrational or unreasonable.
Whoa! We weren’t aware of that. But Wikipedia then tells us: “The Court also ruled that an actual belief that the tax law is invalid or unconstitutional is not a good faith belief based on a misunderstanding caused by the complexity of the tax law, and is not a defense.” Here’s more from Wikipedia:
Further, the case was remanded for a re-trial. In the re-trial, the jury rejected Mr. Cheek’s argument that he actually “believed” that wages were not taxable. He was again convicted. On March 13, 1992, Cheek was sentenced to one year and one day imprisonment, and he was placed on five years probation.
At least one Federal district court has indicated that, in the absence of either testimony by the defendant about his own belief or some other evidence that provides a link to the “taxpayer’s mindset,” the defendant’s lawyer cannot require a court to give a “Cheek defense instruction” to a jury That decision has been affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
It’s complicated, but it seems that if a taxpayer is genuinely confused by the complexity of the law, that could be a legitimate defense; but it’s no defense if he thinks the entire law is bogus. Undoubtedly, Cheek will be a big factor in the Defendants’ case — if the judge allows it. Moving along with Reilly’s article:
In his 2006 trial, on advice of counsel, Hovind put on no defense at all. He has promised his supporters that will not happen this time and that he expects to be on the stand for three days. Hovind may be hoping that he can put on the sort of Gish Gallop that critics accuse him of using in creation debates. Judge Rodgers’s limitations on the type of defense that can put on may frustrate Hovind’s plans.
Reilly then discusses the lack of popular enthusiasm for Hovind’s case in Pensacola, the site of the trial. And he links to a few blogs — including the last post by your humble Curmudgeon, which he says “seems to be dominated by schadenfreude.” Perhaps so. Like most people, we’re not fans of the IRS, but we obey the law, and we have no sympathy for the tax protester movement.
So there you are, dear reader. The second — and presumably last — week of the trial begins. And now we understand the legal basis of Hovind’s defense — he’s betting on the Cheek case. Will he be successful? We’ll soon find out. Stay tuned to this blog.
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