Kent Hovind gets 10 years for violating federal tax law
A newly remorseful Pensacola evangelist, who still disputes the government’s right to make him pay taxes, was sentenced Friday afternoon to 10 years in prison on federal tax charges.
His wife, Jo, will be sentenced March 1 on charges of evading bank-reporting requirements.
Before his sentencing, a tearful Kent Hovind compared his situation to that of the lion and the mouse in Aesop’s Fables.
“I feel like the mouse,” Hovind told U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers. “I stand here in great fear of the power of this court. Your decision can destroy my life, my ministry and my grandchildren.”
Hovind’s courtroom comments were in stark contrast to more-combative statements he made in recent telephone calls from Escambia County Jail.
In a recording of one of the telephone conversations played in court Friday, Hovind said the Internal Revenue Service, presiding judge and prosecutor broke the law by going after him, and there were things he could do “to make their lives miserable.”
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.”
In November, a jury found Kent Hovind guilty on 58 federal counts, including failure to pay $845,000 in employee-related taxes. Jo Hovind was convicted of 44 of the counts that involved evading bank-reporting requirements.
Jo Hovind’s sentencing was postponed by Rodgers to allow defense and prosecution attorneys to argue sentencing guidelines.
Kent Hovind, owner of Creation Science Evangelism and Dinosaur Adventure Land on North Palafox Street in Pensacola, has maintained he owes no taxes because everything he owns belongs to God.
During his trial, Kent Hovind was characterized as a tax protester who paid his employees in cash and labeled them “missionaries” to avoid payroll tax and FICA requirements.
Accused of failing to pay $473,818 in federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes between March 31, 2001 and Jan. 31, 2004, Kent Hovind maintains he has broken no laws.
“I am not a tax protester and never have been,” Kent Hovind told Rodgers. “The laws are just fine. It is just that some are enforcing laws that are not there.”
The recordings, compiled by the IRS from phone conversations from jail, showed Kent Hovind was trying to hide assets from the government, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer said.
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.
The court was packed with the Hovinds’ supporters and spilled into the lobby for lack of seating. During a break, several gathered in a circle, held hands and prayed.
A creationist who believes dinosaurs and modern man walked the earth together, Kent Hovind has traveled the world debating evolutionists and giving lectures. His theme is dedicated to creationism.
Several people testified on Kent Hovind’s behalf and described him as a man of honesty and integrity whose beliefs are sincere.
“My father is not a man who is in love with money. He’s in love with God,” son Eric Hovind said. “He is a man who loves this country and loves others.”
When handing down the sentence, Rodgers admonished those present the trial “is not and has never been about 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.”
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.
The sentence follows on the heels of Thursday’s conviction of Pensacola residents Fred “Sport” Suttles and Mary R. Ham, on charges of tax fraud. Suttles was convicted on 10 counts of tax conspiracy to defraud the IRS, evasion of tax payments, failure to pay employee taxes and obstruction of due administration of tax revenue laws.
Most of the government’s case against Suttles centered around the operation of his jewelry store, Diamond Brokers of Northwest Florida Inc., on U.S. 98 near Blue Angel Parkway.
Ham, with whom Suttles has a 17-year-old daughter, was a co-defendant on one charge of conspiracy to defraud the IRS.
IRS spokesman Norman Meadows said Hovind’s case was not run of the mill and “tax protesters like this are a threat to the nation.”
Details of Hovind’s 10-year sentence
U.S. District Court Judge Casey Rodgers sentenced Pensacola evangelist Kent Hovind to:
10 years in federal prison. Rodgers recommended Hovind be sent to Saufley Field’s prison facility in Pensacola, but it will be up to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to make the final decision.
Pay $604,876 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Agency.
Pay $7,078 for the prosecution’s court costs.
Serve three years on parole.
Rodgers also ordered forfeiture proceedings against Hovind’s assets, in the amount of $430,500, for evading of bank-reporting requirements.
Kent Hovind’s wife, Jo Hovind, will be sentenced March 1 on charges stemming from the bank-reporting requirements.