Pensacola evangelist and tax protester Kent Hovind winked at his wife and gave her a reassuring smile as he was led away to jail.
Jo Hovind clutched the necktie he had been wearing. She kept her eyes on her husband until he was out of sight.
A 12-person jury deliberated for 21/2 hours on Thursday before finding the couple guilty of all counts in their tax-fraud case.
Kent Hovind, founder of Creation Science Evangelism and Dinosaur Adventure Land in Pensacola, was found guilty of 58 counts, including failure to pay $845,000 in employee-related taxes. He faces a maximum of 288 years in prison.
Jo Hovind was charged and convicted in 44 of the counts involving evading bank-reporting requirements. She faces up to 225 years in prison but was allowed to remain free pending the couple’s sentencing on Jan. 9.
Kent Hovind briefly held onto her arm as the verdict was read. Neither reacted at first. But minutes later, she held her face in her hands.
“Nobody likes to pay taxes,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer said in her closing argument. “But we do because it’s the law, and he is not above the law.”
The jury also granted the prosecution’s request for the Hovinds to forfeit $430,400. That amount equals the value of the checks signed and cashed by Jo Hovind in the 44 counts.
U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers released Jo Hovind until sentencing but denied Kent Hovind’s request to be released. He most likely will be detained at either Escambia County Jail or Santa Rosa County Jail until sentencing.
Heldmyer said Kent Hovind was a flight risk and a “danger to the community.”
His attorney, Alan Richey, argued that the Internal Revenue Service pursued his client because of his religious beliefs.
Kent Hovind, whose life’s mission is to debunk evolution, says he and his employees are workers of God and therefore exempt from paying taxes. He pays his employees in cash and does not withhold their taxes or pay his share as an employer.
“There’s a difference between wrong and committing a crime,” Richey said in his closing argument. “You can do all the wrong things you want and still not commit a crime.”
Jo Hovind’s attorney, Jerold Barringer, argued that his client was a simple piano teacher and grandmother who was not aware of bank-reporting regulations concerning large amounts of cash. Any cash transaction at a bank more than $10,000 triggers a currency-transaction report forwarded to the IRS. She was found guilty of using several methods to take out just enough money to avoid triggering the report.
The Hovinds and their attorneys declined comment. Their supporters, who took up most of the six rows in Rodgers’ courtroom, dwindled in number as the day went on.
Jo Hovind’s son, Kent Andrew Hovind, and two women escorted her out of the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Pensacola.
Richard Hogan, an acquaintance of Kent Hovind who observed the last day of the two-week trial, said he felt especially bad for Jo Hovind.
“He was the leader, and she probably went along with him,” said Hogan, 53. He first met the Hovinds when their children were homeschooled.
“It’s pretty tough to fight Goliath,” Hogan said. “The first time the IRS calls, you should go ahead and deal with it. It didn’t have to come down to this.”
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The Hovind case, at a glance
The Hovinds were charged with a total of 58 counts of tax evasion.
Counts one through 12 include Kent Hovind’s alleged failure to collect nearly $470,000 in employee taxes.
Counts 13 through 57 include both Kent and Jo Hovind. They are charged with structuring cash transactions of $430,500 to avoid reporting requirements.
Count 58 includes the following charges against Kent Hovind:
Filing a frivolous lawsuit against the IRS, demanding damages for criminal trespass.
Filing an injunction against an IRS agent.
Making threats against investigators and those cooperating with the investigation.
Filing false complaints against the IRS for false arrest, excessive use of force and theft.