PENSACOLA, Fla. — A jury that contemplated four new charges that could have put an imprisoned creation science evangelist who refuted evolutionary theory behind bars for life was unable to agree on three of the charges filed against him.
As previously reported, Kent Hovind, the founder of Creation Science Evangelism out of Pensacola, Florida, has been fighting charges of mail fraud and contempt for contesting liens against a number of properties that had been seized by the government several years ago.
He has been incarcerated since 2007 over 58 federal counts, 45 of which centered on alleged “structuring,” a term that refers to breaking up one’s banking transactions into smaller amounts in order to avoid reporting. The original intent of the law had reportedly been to catch drug dealers and money launderers.
In regard to Hovind’s specific charges, the minister and his wife had made dozens of cash withdrawals of just over $9,000 each over a year’s time, and the government asserted that he was attempting to “obstruct and impede the due administration of the internal revenue laws.” However, Hovind said that he paid for his ministry expenses in cash—including compensation for those involved with Creation Science Evangelism—and was not seeking to evade any laws as anything over $10,000 was reported as required.
The government also leveled tax evasion charges against Hovind, who traveled the nation presenting talks about science and the Bible, as he had considered his ministry to be a church and considered himself to be a minister. Churches are not required to file taxes and are automatically exempt under the law.
But an official with Pensacola Christian College reported Hovind to the IRS, which concluded that those at Creation Science Evangelism did not technically consider the ministry to be their church. The government likewise did not believe Hovind when he said that those who served with him were missionaries who paid their own self-employment taxes, but not employees. Hovind also stated that he did not receive any personal compensation from the ministry.
The IRS subsequently ordered Hovind to pay payroll taxes as it would not permit Creation Science Evangelism to be classified as a church, and since it did not believe that those who worked for him were independent contractor missionaries.
In 2004, Hovind’s home was raided by IRS agents, and tax liens were placed against 10 properties relating to his biblical theme park. He filed three separate lawsuits against the government in an attempt to stop the proceedings, which he viewed as harassment, but was unsuccessful.
In 2006, the case went to trial, and a jury convicted him on all 58 counts. His wife, Jo Delia, was convicted on 44 counts. In January 2007, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and remains incarcerated to this day.
As Hovind has been seeking to contest the lien from behind bars, he was subsequently charged with mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and contempt. According to the Pensacola News Journal, years ago, Hovind had been prohibited under a court order not to contest the government’s lien on the properties. Because he did file papers, including a “lis pendens,” which warns potential buyers that the land is under dispute, he was charged with contempt. The mail fraud charges were for actually mailing the documents from prison.
But a jury was unconvinced that Hovind, and ministry trustee Paul Hanson, had sought to defraud the government by mailing the documents. As they deadlocked and could not come to an agreement on three of the four charges against Hovind, the evolutionary foe was declared guilty of only the contempt charge.
While supporters are disappointed that the jury declared Hovind guilty of any of the charges at all, they state that they are thankful for the outcome for the most part.
“I think the Lord God Almighty worked in a mighty way here,” Free Kent Hovind organizer Rudy Davis told reporters. “They threw their best lawyers; they had five days of prosecution; they read hundreds of documents, hundreds of emails, voicemails they had sequestered—everything they could throw at the man.”
Sentencing is set for June 12.