Jan 19, 2007

Kent Hovind: Maxed Minus One

I took my children to Kent Hovind's sentencing trial today. In shackels and a green jumpsuit, Kent quipped, "I chose green today ... to match my lawyer." It was so good to see him smiling and laughing.

Casey Rodgers, allegedly the youngest US judge, and one who represented local strip clubs pro bono while still working to pass the bar, was clearly not enthused about the profusion of Christianity in her courtroom. Although Kent was previously found guilty of 58 tax fraud-related charges, today's hearing included character witnesses, recorded phone calls from the prison, and Kent's own "hear my heart" speech. While I realize that we were not present for the initial trial, and we did not hear all the evidence presented on both sides, I will report what I did hear today.

The trial began with the judge deciding that Jo Hovind's original trial was incomplete and asked counsel to go back and look at two more issues. Her sentencing will now take place March 1.

Scott Schneider, an IRS special agent, took about 90 hours worth of recently recorded phone calls and played back 31 minutes of those calls. It was his purpose, he said, to show that Kent Hovind was hiding assets and making additional legal threats while he was in prison.

"Incriminating" Phone Calls

As we listened to the phone calls, I heard Kent ask about the motorhome, which later turned out to be a gift someone had given the ministry and needed some electrical work. Kent thought it needed to be parked elsewhere, which Schneider interpreted to mean that he was hiding his assets. Kent also said that if Schneider had not taken all the church funds and ministry materials, he recommended that they keep them safe. Since this was supposed to be a personal trial for Kent Hovind, and not for his ministry, I wondered why keeping the church funds safe was considered "hiding assets."

"If I get out [of prison]," Kent told his wife on the phone, "I'm going to leave [the judge, the prosecutor, and the IRS special agent] alone. If I don't get out, I'm going to sue them. I don't really want to fight them, but Schneider needs to obey the law. I'm not ready to roll over; this is America. I just want everybody to obey the law. I'll hold him harmless if he will just drop the case. I just want to be a Nehemiah and build the wall."

I am NOT a Tax Protester

"The tax laws are written just fine," Kent insisted. "The government just doesn't obey them." According to Kent, the W-2 is a voluntary tax withholding agreement, which his ministry declined to use. He claims he does not have employees, per se, but independent contractors, which, in a ministry, are exempt from being required to file a W-2 at their place of employment.

"What Have I Done Wrong?"

The rule of law is the constitution, and Kent does not see what law he has violated. Over and over again, throughout all the testimony today and throughout hundreds of pages of documents, Kent continually asked, "What have I done wrong? How can I repent if I don't know the specific charges? What law have I broken? Show me the code and we'll pay it. We have a responsibility to God to obey the law. Please show me which specific law we are violating; so far all I've seen are vague generalities."

A Man of Conviction and Honor

The first character witness for Kent was his son, Eric, who stressed Kent Hovind's consistency in all of life - truth. Standing on the truth of God's Word is so important to Kent that he will always stick with it, win or lose. Eric also gave many examples of how Kent was unbelievably in love with God, how he loved his country, and how he loved others, especially the unloveable, because of God's own love toward him. Calling Kent his hero, Eric praised him for being an "awesome" dad and grandpa to five grandchildren, one of which was born just 10 days ago and Kent has not yet seen. He told about Kent's vow of poverty that he took in 1989, not owning anything personally, but even having seven different offices in the parsonage in which he lives with his wife. Giving away so much of their material, Kent did not even bother to copyright it so that it would be available to more people. Kent's number one goal, Eric explained, is to love God.

John Dustin told of his long-term relationship with Kent, a man of honor and conviction. He explained that Kent's convictions were so deep that his personality sometimes seemed abrasive in getting those convictions across.

Pastor Greg Dickson, 74, said, "A good name is to be honored more than choice silver." He noted that in the 31 minutes of phone calls we listened to in court, it was remarkable how a convict had seemingly no malice toward those who prosecuted him, no filthy or vile language, no bitterness whatsoever.

Paul Abramson, a contractor for CSE, said that incarcerating Kent Hovind would be detrimental to society as a whole; Kent Hovind's voice in the creation movement was so needed.

The Lion and the Mouse

When it came time for Kent to give a speech about where his heart was, he began with one of Aesop's fables about a lion and the mouse, in which the mouse begs the lion not to harm him by promising to help the lion later when he might be in need. "I feel like the mouse," Kent sobbed.

Although he has led 15 men to Christ in the last three months, Kent clearly and desperately wanted out of jail. "I would have obeyed if only I'd known (what I was doing wrong) before the arrest."

He couldn't understand a justice system that wouldn't allow all the parties to just sit down and talk. He was sure that they could have come to a mutally agreeable conclusion if he would have just been able to sit down with the prosecutor and the IRS agent.

Apologizing for not making peace with Scott Schneider, Kent told of how he asked Scott to leave the property when he came to take pictures for the court. Kent was very sorry that in all the years of his welcoming thousands of people to his ministry's property that he had actually told Scott to leave. He also apologized for his pride and his frustration at the seeming lack of due process.

Deafening Silence

Relating some of the history of both his ministry and the current charges, Kent presented volumes of letters he had written both to professionals to ask for advice, and to those prosecuting him to ask for help, all during the last several years. It was especially noteworthy to me that his letters to the prosecuting attorney and to the IRS special agent all went unanswered and his frustration mounted at not being able to know just what he had done wrong.

Ordained in 1974, Kent claims that his understanding of the law is that ordained ministers are exempt from paying withholding taxes and that churches and ministries, both of which applied to his situation are also exempt from paying the withholding taxes on behalf of their employees, which are actually independent contractors, or more commonly known to Christians as missionaries. Kent claimed that both Wycliffe Bible Translators and Rick Warren's Saddleback Church use the same method of not withholding income taxes from their independent contractors (employees). Kent encouraged his employees to pay their own taxes.

Accused of structuring, Kent claimed that based upon the advice of Glen Stoll, who now controls Creation Science Evangelism, he did not take out more than $10,000 cash from the bank at any one time, using the cash to pay his missionaries who preferred cash and to pay for the expenses of the ministry. Sometimes there would be three days in between large withdrawals, while other times there would be up to 34 days in between. Not only did the discrepancy in dates indicate no structuring, but structuring is based upon violations of drug-trafficking laws, in which Kent and Jo were clearly not involved either.

Regarding the charge of destroying documents, Kent claimed that he used a shredder to destroy customer's credit card receipt copies. He kept insisting that he never knowingly or willfully violated any law.

Tears of Humility

In tears during this whole testimony, Kent then says that the only thing he's changed his mind about is that if he goes back to prison, he will not sue the IRS. "I feel like the mouse. What can I do?"

"When you wrestle with a skunk, you can win, but it gets awful messy."

When asked if he's repentant, he again asks, "What have I done wrong?" He admits, "I am guilty of being proud and frustrated. I am willing to make any changes necessary (in my finances)."

Always the preacher, Kent openly shares the gospel in court and ends with prayer, begging God to help him to understand all this.

No Mercy

The prosecutor closed by saying that Kent's testimony wasn't really heartfelt, it was all just subterfuge for the appeal he knew he would be making later on.

Refusing to accept responsibility for those 58 charges of which he was previously found guilty, Kent continues to ask, "What have I done wrong? What specific law have I broken? How can I change if I don't know what it is that I am doing?"

For Judge Rodgers closing remarks before sentencing, she stated that this case is not about religion. Kent brought religion into it, but she said that the law states that churches are not exempt from withholding taxes. I did find it noteworthy that she freely quoted each specific law and its regulation number when she spoke of many other details regarding sentencing, but she did not give any specifics regarding which law this particular one might be.

Although Kent repeatedly stated that he was not a tax protester, the judge insisted that the evidence was to the contrary, being especially persuaded by the fact that Kent had given control of his ministry to Glen Stoll of Remedies at Law, apparently someone toward whom judges in tax fraud cases have very little charity.

She also went to great lengths extolling the virtues of our great country and how unique it is in our freedoms and rights, but that those can only be paid for by our taxes. "You have dishonored the constitution," she rebukes Kent.


For the implied legal threats and hiding assets, for his personal attacks against Scott Schneider (?), for his refusal to accept responsibility, and because he gave his ministry over to Glen Stoll who is also in trouble with the law, Judge Rodgers decided to all but max his sentence: 10 years in prison. (The maximum amount is 10 years, one month.) He was fined to pay restitution of $604,874.87, a $2000 fine, $5800 in special monetary assessment costs, and $7078.24 in prosecution costs, payable at a monthly pro-rated amount of approximately $1000 per month beginning three months after his three-year probation begins upon completion of his time served. Based upon his low risk factor for taking drugs, the judge waived the mandatory drug testing for Kent Hovind. So kind of her.

God is Still Sovereign

Although we were crushed by the outcome, we were glad we came. The courtroom was packed. They brought in extra chairs and Alicia even had to sit on my lap. It was interesting to watch the different strengths and weaknesses among the family members. Everyone responded according to their different personalities. This was a time when one's trust in a Sovereign Lord became apparent for all the world to see. I spent much of the day in prayer, but with a judge that seemed so hard and cold, I wondered what good my prayers did. This is a time when I know that I have to believe that all things work together for good for those who love God - and I know Kent Hovind loves the Lord. May He show him some mercy in this case.


Pilgrim Worship Band said...

Very interesting detailed information thank you so much!

I feel so sad after hearing what happened I also prayed about Kent Hovind and his family today... All we can ask is mercy from God on this case...

A good passage from Bible to Kent Hovind and his family is found in the Psalms 23:4-6 when King David was in trouble...

"(4)Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

(5)You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

(6)Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."

God Bless You Kent Hovind.

Jen Fishburne said...

I received an email from a reader today with several questions related to the official version of this story. I thought he asked very pertinent questions, so I am copying our exchange here as well.

Thanks for your report on Kent Hovind. I wanted to get your comments on a couple of things that Kent supposedly said during this trial. I have known him for several years as he spoke at my church.

Comparing himself to a buffalo in a lion fight, Hovind's voice was heard saying "As long as I have some horns, I'm going to swing. As long as I have some hoofs, I'm going to kick. As long as I have some teeth, I'm going to fight. The lion's going to know he's been in a fight."

The telephone conversations were difficult to hear and I do not recall hearing this, but that doesn't mean he did not say this. He said several things like this, but what he was referring to was the fact that he wasn't just going to sit there and do nothing, but that he was going to fight for his rights. I did not have any personal concerns with this attitude as this seems to be exactly how I feel in my church situation as well.

In one phone conversation played in court, Kent Hovind was heard to advise a business partner to put only "what you can afford to lose" in a church account.

Although I'm not 100% certain of the details here, it seemed that the IRS was just coming in and taking all their money and materials, whether they thought it belonged to Kent or to the ministry. Kent was the one charged, not the ministry, and he seemed to think he had an obligation to protect donor funds from being stolen by the government.

When handing down the sentence, Rodgers admonished those present the trial "is not and has never been about religion."

Yes. This is true. She said that Kent was the one who brought religion into it, not her. She couldn't seem to understand that as Christians we cannot separate our life from "religion."

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld that churches are not exempt from paying employment taxes, she explained, and what happened was a result of Kent Hovind "refusing to accept what the law is."

What law was that? The whole point is that there doesn't appear to be a law.

Furthermore, Rodgers contended Kent Hovind had failed his fellow citizens and the men and women of the military -- who fight to defend his freedoms -- by refusing to pay taxes.

"With these rights and privileges comes a great responsibility and one of those responsibilities is to pay taxes," Rodgers said.

Yes, that seemed to be her trump card. She went on and on about how many privileges Kent had as an American citizen, but that he was ungrateful for them because he refused to pay his taxes.

Since you were at the trial, are these things true? I find it hard to understand that Kent didn't know the law that the judge spelled out.

Thanks for your help!

Your brother in Christ,

I took quite extensive notes at the trial yesterday, so I'd be glad to answer any other questions, if I can, or add more detail for those wanting even more.

Anonymous said...

I am very upset to hear of the outcome of the trial. I highly respect Kent Hovind and his teachings, and to be honest I just never thought it would go this far. That he would actually end up in jail! Are you going to his wife's trial in March?

Anonymous said...

Hi there. Perhaps I can help with some of the specific laws involved.

Mr. Hovind was charged under Title 26 USC § 7202:
Any person required under this title to collect, account for, and pay over any tax... shall be fined... or imprisoned.

Withholding is required under Title 26 USC § 3402:
every employer making payment of wages shall deduct and withhold upon such wages a tax...

§3401 defines wages as:
... all remuneration... for services performed by an employee for his employer...

And an employer as:
... the person for whom an individual performs or performed any service, of whatever nature, as the employee of such person...

The §3401 definition of employee, because of its use of "includes," is not a comprehensive definition (see definition of "includes" in §7701(c)) so we need to look elsewhere. Specifically, we look to the taxes imposed.

These taxes are listed in a number of places. The FICA tax, for example is in Chapter 21 (§31xx), which defines an employee (in §3121(d)) as:
... any individual who, under the usual common law rules applicable in determining the employer-employee relationship, has the status of an employee...

So, we look to - and apply - the usual common law rules. For example:

Which is (partly) what the trial was about. The jury saw evidence showing Mr. Hovind exerted more than sufficient control over the people who worked at CSE/DAL for them to be considered employees.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to note that Dr. Hovind is "essentially" being convicted of not paying employee taxes... Look around... How many illegal immigrant workers do you see in our country these days? Who is convicting the employers of these immigrants (nothing against them, they are only doing what is natural) that are working "under the table"? Kinda strange to me ! I think Dr. Hovind was a target. In fact I think there is a concerted effort to villify the kind Dr. who has selflessly taught me so much about this life and brought me to the WAY the TRUTH and the LIFE!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the info here.
It actually tear off the lies they have propagated about Dr. Hovind.
The Lord Jesus Christ will vindicate Dr. Hovind in Jesus name & Isa 54:17 No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.
shall be fulfilled in this case in Jesus mighty name.
Once again thanks so much for bringing out the truth, I really wish this will go out to many who seeks to know the truth. I knew that it was a cunny devise but many get carried away with the craftiness to spoil Dr. Hovind's name. The creator of the whole universe will indeed put the devil to open shame in this matter in Jesus name. I pray for the Judge Rogers that the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ will be upon her & that the Lord in His mercy will meet her at the point of her utmost need which is known to the Lord in Jesus name. Amen.

Aubrey said...

Great writeup!

I just wanted to let everyone know about http://FreeHovind.com

It's a site I created to help people view all of Hovind's materials.
On the site are all of Hovind's seminars, answering critics series, etc. as well as more information about the case and links to other sources of information!

Anonymous said...

Thanks darling for posting the tax codes!

Now, how does the church fit into all of this? I, too, thought they were exempt. Was it b/c he didn't file to be a non profit? (his 501(c))?

Jen Fishburne said...

Gilly, I would really like to answer your question, but I'm not sure I understand it. Would you mind asking it again?

Anonymous said...

Gilly, you are welcome.

Churches and 501(c)s are not excempt from these requirements - the employer/employee relationship is what's important.

(For what it's worth, Mr. Hovind chose not to accept the privileges of 501(c) non-profit status. So the IRS treats CSE like an ordinary business.)

Anonymous said...

Funny I thought the 1st Amendment told the government to butt out of religion period! Therefore IRSS has NO say over a religious group/ministry! Also how can one be a non-profit government corporation and still claim to be the Body of Christ? I thought one can't serve 2 masters.

Anonymous said...

I just found this website through Wikipedia, after watching perhaps a half hour of one of Mr. Hovind's seminars, in which he referred to National Geographic as 'National Pornographic' (for no reason that I can see or understand) and also launched a rather perplexing attack on Saddam Hussein (also for no reason that I can see, as his information, flawed as it was, had absolutely nothing to do with the man.)

Judging by the lack of logic and correct information in his seminar, I can believe that maybe he didn't understand the laws.

Maybe he didn't do the research, maybe he simply assumed that because he was, in his own eyes and those of his followers, 'Doing God's work' that he didn't need to pay attention to secular laws, or maybe he knew full well what he was doing but assumed that he wouldn't get caught.
Whatever the reasoning, Hovind broke the law, and he is paying for it.

NickZ. said...

So let's see Timothy Franz Geithner doesn't pay taxes and he get's to be United States Secretary of the Treasury, serving under President Barack Obama. Kent Hovind doesn't pay taxes doing the Lords work in defending his word and he goes to jail. It almost seems like someone doen't like his message. I guess we should all just give the honor and glory to grand old Caesar.

Charlie said...

I know this old news that Dr. Kent Hovind went to jail. I only found out about him like 2 weeks ago. His seminars are amazing and insightful and its easy for any reborn-Christian to see God is at work in his ministry and brought him to the truth that he teaches in his seminars. We need much more people like Dr. Kent Hovind. (the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few).

I was shocked and very upset to hear he is in jail... and then to find out he has been there for years already.
God has been speaking to us showing us the truth about where the world is headed (new world order and revelation prophecy in end times)for a couple of years now. None of that was new to me in Dr. Hovind's seminars and the fact that Dr. Hovind was sent to jail is not wierd at all if you think about it.

He was exposing a lot of things and they needed desperately to shut him up. People's eyes are opening.

Cases like this my dear brothers and sisters will only multiply. We are living in the end time. Dr. Hovind will be rewarded for this persecution, so don't be sad.

Praise God! because if the the Word of God is true (and it is!!) then we will suffer but also be raised to glory with Christ and He will deliver us and make this world new and remove all death and sadness. We are living in an amazing time. We were each chosen to live in this time, so trust God and follow Him wholeheartedly because He is faithful and shows us what is to come. Take heart for Jesus has overcome.

Yours in Christ (from South Africa)

luyerchirinos said...

Beloved Sister, my name is Luyer Chirinos, from venezuela, i´m a pastor since 2007, just a few days ago i recieved some video from my brother kent. Then I heard he was in prision and i´ve been trying to make contact. my e-mail is luyerchirinos@hotmail.com, would you please send me your e-mail? I´d like to contact brother kent if possible...

LoneStar1776 said...


My name is Rudy Davis and I am the one talking to Kent in the following video.


Can you please email me at ruddavis@yahoo.com ?

I would love to communicate with you and ask you something about the comments made my the judge.

THank you,