Comment on Forbes article “The Trials of Kent Hovind”

Peter Reilly has a new post up on his Forbes blog called The Trials of Kent Hovind-An American Tragedy. It’s a reiteration of Hovind’s case and Reilly’s feeling that maybe the government is too harsh. I wrote the following response to the article, which I think explains why the government is acting as it is:

I really think you can’t discount the influence of sovereign citizen arguments in why the government continues to pursue Kent and Paul. Kent has been represented by more conventional counsel and that counsel has stayed very firmly away from sovereign citizen arguments.

Not so with co-defendant Paul Hansen. During the first trial, Hansen was represented by conventional counsel (Chris Klotz) and struggled mightily because he wanted to present a thoroughgoing sovereign citizen defense. This led to some tussles between counsel and client, because Hansen kept insisting on filing handwritten sovereign citizen motions on his own behalf, which is not what you do when you have an attorney.

In the last week, Hansen has been freed from the constraints of having counsel and is now representing himself. Klotz, however, will be on hand in case Hansen needs help (but in no way is this to be construed as a “hybrid defense”). Now that Paul has gone pro se, we’re seeing the full flower of his particular strain of sovereign citizen theory. This is best demonstrated by a subpoena duces tecum to IRS agent Scott Schneider, which he read over the phone twice to Hovindicator Rudy Davis. (link to original transcription and second video with even more subpoena demands)

A cursory reading of the subpoena shows Hansen is drilling in to his basic sovereign citizen argument, which is that the United States of America does not have jurisdiction to try him. You can see this throughout the subpoena, where he asks Schneider, as a proxy for the government, to prove the criminal acts were performed on land owned by the USA, the mailings were done on land owned by the USA or passed over land owned by the USA and so on through the location of the courthouse, the licensing of the prosecutor, the ability of the government to collect taxes, et cetera, et cetera. Number 17 (too long to quote here) is five points where Hansen basically intends to retry Hovind’s 2006 case. Number 18 asks for documentation of the written law or process Hovind and Hansen would have to follow to become United States citizens. (That’s right, Hovind and Hansen don’t believe they are citizens of the United States.)

Not to put too fine of a point on it, but the jurisdictional arguments in this subpoena will simply go nowhere. As to why the government is coming down so hard on Hovind and Hansen has to do with the slippery slope of what I call “sovereign citizen nuttery,” which can be all over the map. At their most benign, sovereign citizen arguments have led people to file reams of paper with various authorities. An example of this would be Hovind’s attempt to renounce his US citizenship in 1998, which he filed with Escambia County, Florida. However, he continued to live in Pensacola even after this attempt.

A step up in sovereign citizen warfare against the government are liens against property. These tend to gum up the system as the subjects of the liens (clerks, police, judges) have to go to court to get the liens removed. In the Hovind case, lis pendens (a type of lien based on a pending lawsuit) were filed to keep the US government from selling parcels belonging to Hovind’s old Dinosaur Adventure Land. These actions led to the criminal contempt of court convictions in March for Hovind and Hansen and to the retrial on mail fraud charges.

I believe the government sees Hovind and Hansen as a continuing problem that has to be squashed. Because there are more extreme forms of sovereign citizen belief. From liens that require court actions to remove, we move on to sovereign citizen house squatters, sovereign citizen burglars and sovereign citizen bank robbers all the way up to sovereign citizens who have been a real threat to law enforcement. Some police officers have died at the hands of self-declared sovereigns. Law enforcement officials have said in 2015 that sovereign citizens are a bigger threat than Islamic terrorism. As a result, the government has made it very clear it is not going to put up with sovereign citizen theories because of where they could lead people.

I agree with you, Peter, that this is a tragic situation, but it’s one entirely of Kent Hovind’s own making. I can’t help but wonder if Hovind were to get out of jail on parole in August, as had originally been the plan, if he wouldn’t be back in prison a short time later for failing to cooperate with the terms of his parole. Certainly he would be required to be conventionally tax compliant and get a job with W-2 withholdings. (It’s not likely the terms of his parole would allow him to take up itinerant creation evangelism again.) I could very much see Kent objecting strenuously to tax withholding at the job he will be required to take as part of his parole. After all, the prosecution did show at the 2006 trial that Hovind browbeat churches which tried to be conventionally tax compliant and withhold a sum of money to be submitted to the IRS along with a 1099.

Kent would do well to take your advice, but so far he has not. And, contrary to Hovindicator belief, I don’t want to harm Kent Hovind. I actually don’t know if he’s guilty of the mail fraud charges because I haven’t seen the evidence. But I do think Kent is his own worst enemy and some of the Hovindicators are encouraging him in that.