November 03, 2006

Kent Hovind convicted of tax fraud

In Pensacola yesterday, creation "scientist," tax evader, and all-round kook "Dr." Kent Hovind, who also goes by the nickname "Dr. Dino," was convicted of 58 counts of tax-evasion-related offenses, including failure to pay more than $800,000 in employee taxes. His wife was also convicted of 44 counts of avoiding income-reporting requirements.

Hovind has refused to pay employee taxes, claiming that he and his employees are working for God, and therefore exempted from taxes. He does not withhold tax, and he pays his employees in cash.

Over the course of his three-week trial (with a one-week interruption in the middle), Hovind hit a number of the standard tax-evader/conspiracy-nut arguments:

  • He argued that he is not a citizen of the United States, nor a resident of Florida, and therefore not subject to taxation.
  • He claimed zero income.
  • He refused to provide a tax number to churches that engaged him as a speaker.
  • He paid his staff in "cash gifts" to avoid reporting it.
  • One employee testified that he had been instructed to refuse any mail addressed to "KENT HOVIND" in all capitals, because that signified that the government had created a "corporation" in that name, and by accepting the mail, Hovind was accepting all the responsibilities that went with it.
  • He initiated a frivolous lawsuit against an IRS agent because she could not make an appointment at the time he suggested.
  • His lawyer asked irrelevant questions of witnesses - for example, asking one IRS agent whether his family paid his "fair share" of taxes - until he was told off by the judge.
  • The defense called no witnesses, claiming the prosecution had not established its case.

Frankly I'm surprised that he didn't complain that the American flag in the courtroom had a gold fringe on it, and therefore it was an admiralty court and had no right to try him. There are a number of stalling tactics like that, which tax evaders use in court and the rest of the world laughs at. Some of these simps will argue that if their name appears in ALL CAPS on court documents, it is a "nom de guerre" and proves the State has declared them an enemy, or a "trust corporation," or a "fictitious entity." (All-capital words or names are an old convention for emphasis in legal documentation; typewriters could only do so much.) Also, as far as I know, Hovind did not argue that income taxes were illegal because the Sixteenth Amendment was never ratified.

What Hovind did do, however, was deliberately move his money around in ways that avoided the reporting requirements that the banks are bound by (for example, they must report funds transfers greater than $10,000). If Hovind wasn't doing something illegal (as he claims), why try to hide it?

A few weeks ago, just as this trial started, I attended a church retreat with our Young Adults. The guest speaker was a seminary professor of my acquaintance, who spoke that weekend on ethics. After sessions on living in the world as salt and light, the right use of money, or whether it's right to judge, we wrapped up with a talk from 1 Pet. 3:13-17:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.

In other words: Maybe if you are a faithful Christian, you will be persecuted. If you are, make sure your conscience is clean. If you are to suffer, make sure it is for something good, and not for being a jerk.

Kent Hovind will soon be suffering in jail, not for Christ's sake, but because he's a jerk.