Kent Hovind sent his wife Jo Hovind to prison as assuredly as King David sent Uriah to his death.
The subject of this article has come to my attention based on the fact that Kent Hovind’s man Rudy Davis has picked up on the old Vernon case in conjunction with his activism on behalf of Francis Schaeffer Cox.
See Rudy’s broadcast at:
There seems to be a number of analogies that can be made between the cases of Lonnie & Karen Vernon and Kent & Jo Hovind.
Lonnie & Kent had anti-government, sovcit issues.
Lonnie & Kent had tax evasion issues.
Lonnie & Kent had “jurisdiction” issues.
Lonnie & Kent were married many years to submissive women.
Lonnie & Kent were willing to send their wives to prison and did so.
In the case of Lonnie & Karen Vernon, we are given some insight into Karen’s side of things via the reporting of the case and her participation in discussing her part in her husband’s schemes which led to her going to prison.
As far as I know, Jo Hovind has been well protected and kept in seclusion as far as any effort to tell her story openly and honestly.
Maybe we will yet be provided an exposition from Jo regarding her history with Kent Hovind.
It would be a good thing.
Here is a link to an excellent article from the Vernon case, the sentencing, which includes a lengthy discussion of the case and Lonnie’s part of the proceedings, followed by the discussion of Karen’s sentencing proceedings.
Today (January 7, 2013) is the sentencing for the Salcha couple accused of conspiring to murder a judge and his family, and IRS agents as they anticipated seizure of their home due to a tax dispute. Lonnie Vernon is also being sentenced for his role in the “2-4-1 Militia trial” with co-defendants militia leader Schaeffer Cox, and militia Major Coleman Barney. Lonnie Vernon plead guilty of conspiring to murder the judge in exchange for the dismissal of many of the charges against him.
Of all the characters in this tale, Lonnie Vernon is the most volatile and angry, and Karen Vernon is the most sympathetic.
It proves to be an interesting and eventful day, worthy of a scene in a Greek tragedy, or some epic Hollywood courtroom drama – one that is rated R for language.
Karen Vernon is Sentenced
Next is the sentencing of Karen Vernon, and when I tell you that you could not have had a more completely opposite sentencing hearing, I really mean it.
Karen Vernon, as I’ve said before, reminds me of the librarian that does reading time with kids, or a nice old lady who works in a yarn store, or the awesome grandma who bakes snickerdoodles when you come over because she knows they’re your favorite. OK, yes. She hocked jewelry to buy grenades, but to say that seems violently out of character is an understatement.
The whole crew is back. Judge Bryan says he’s read everything filed in regard to sentencing and reviewed the plea agreement and the events of the trial.
“Ms. Vernon have you had the opportunity to read the report and pre-sentencing memo?”
A tiny, slow, sad voice answers, “Yes, Your Honor. Yes, we discussed it.”
The maximum sentence under the guidelines is 235 months.
The issue is raised again regarding a job Mr. Gardiner, Karen Vernon’s attorney, had since he first got involved with public defenders office. “The question was whether you objected to him continuing to represent you in this matter. Do you have any problem?”
“No I don’t.”
“You discussed with him – his employment – and are satisfied that’s not a conflict?”
“I hope it isn’t, and I assume so. That would be alright.” She looks meek, and sad.
Gardner says he sees no conflict.
The judge notes objections in the addendum to presentencing report, and that several things were, or will be stricken including an “inference that Vernon offered up the cabin.”
Yvonne Lamoureux presents the opinion of the prosecution, and starts with the reliance on a psychologist’s report which concludes that she poses no risk of violence to the community. She states that the psychologist did not have factual evidence about the case that was relevant, and did not know what Vernon had admitted.
“Those statements should have been taken into account in determining if she poses a danger to the community. Her own statements demonstrate the serious nature of offense – statements about killing federal officials. ‘We need to cure the lead deficiency’ of judges,’” – a reference to the good-bye letters to family and friends found in the Vernons’ truck.
“…examining grenades on March 10. ‘These will do the job,’ referring to grenades. These were not reviewed by the psychologist. Her actions demonstrate the seriousness of the offense, a plan in the works. There was a map to the Beistline residence with the route highlighted. She had given the informant a Post-it Note with information, talked about how they would murder family members. There were plans in the works that were interrupted when they were arrested.”
The prosecution concedes, “She worked hard, was a good member of society. Since she was incarcerated, she’s been a contributing member of the prison society.” Lamoureux goes on to say that taking all that into consideration warrants a sentence of at least 188 months, even given her history and her age.
Vernon’s attorney Darrel Gardner is next, and references numerous letters of support for her. Bryan says he’s read them, including material from the prison.
Gardener clarifies that it was not reflected in the written report, but he had summarized things for the psychologist. “He knew what she was charged with, and the general facts of the case.”
“The report is important,” he goes on. “Look at her as an individual – 5 decades of lack of criminal history. And the letters also indicate ‘the current case does appear to be a significant exception to her usual way of functioning.’” Her problems, the report said, were in part “functions of the dynamics of a long-term relationship with Lonnie Vernon. It’s clear from evidence that she was not a willing participant, and was assisting her husband to acquire grenades…”
He urges the court to “look at the dynamic.” She’s been married to Lonnie Vernon for 30 years. He talks about couples who are very different from one another. “You marry a personality, but end up living with a character.” He asks the court to imagine what living with Lonnie Vernon must have been like, for 30 years.
“She maintained that relationship, loved and was devoted to him. When you have a strong personality like Mr. Vernon, you join them, or leave them. She went along to the point where she willfully participated in making these plans. In her mind, she never thought this would actually happen. Lonnie Vernon had lots of weapons, a machine gun, as lots of people in Fairbanks, and the country do. Would she have gone through with it, or been involved at all except for Mr. Vernon?”
That is the question.
“Given her age and psychological assessment, a sentence substantially below the low end of the guidelines is appropriate. She should have the opportunity to live the latter part of her life without being in custody.”
Gardner recommends five years, and cites her support within the community, and the fact she could live with her sister. He mentions that Coleman Barney, one of the defendants in the militia trial sentenced by Bryan, had only received five years. He was not convicted of conspiracy, but she admitted responsibility. So, in his mind, the sentence should be similar. “It goes a long way of showing her acknowledgment this was serious error. The chances of anything like this happening in the future are practically nonexistent.”
Now it is Karen Vernon’s opportunity to address the court. Bryan asks if she had something to say.
“I wrote me some notes, because it was easier,” she practically whispers. “I would like to offer a sincere apology to this court and…” She falters, and begins trying to stifle a cry. “… anyone who may have felt my words or actions were meant to cause harm to anyone.” It is clearly a struggle for her to get it out. “I also apologize to my family and friends for the shame…” She has to stop to keep from sobbing. “… and embarrassment this has caused. And I mean that sir, I truly do.”
Judge Bryan looks like he believes that, and I think everyone in the courtroom does.
“Where is your mind regarding this whole income tax issue regarding Judge Beistline?” Bryan asks her.
“It’s out of his hands. They sent it to another judge. It went to the 9th circuit. I’m doing it the lawful way like I’d been doing all along. It’s up to them. I’m trying to do everything the lawful way.”
Bryan, looks at her, head in hand. He, like the rest of us, appears to be struggling with the schism between Vernon’s demeanor, and her husband’s – between who she appears to be, and what she has actually done.
“You can’t escape responsibility because it may have been your husband’s idea. Why didn’t you say no up front?”
“I did say no, and no, and no and no. Over and over. ‘Don’t say things. Don’t say things that are threatening, that someone else will think is threatening.’ I said no to the grenades. We can’t afford ‘em. We don’t need ‘em.”
She pauses for a moment in anguish, weighing the question, and composing herself.
“…and I just finally gave in. And when I’m with him sometimes my mouth overruns my thought process. That happens with a lot of people… or maybe it doesn’t. I didn’t want him to feel… The guy was offering him work, and I didn’t want to stand in the way, and cause him to say, ‘You lost me that job.’”
“Who was going to give him work?” asked Bryan.
“JR Olson.” Her voice gets dark as she spoke the name of the FBI informant her husband had just called “a $300,000 whore drug-dealing piece of shit.’ “The job was in logging. It was something we’d done before. And he was tickled to death to be out in the woods, even for a few months.”
“Your husband remains very angry. How do you feel about this court system and this whole thing?”
“I know I made a mistake in who I associated with. Not my husband – no! I love him. I don’t agree with what he says, and the way he says it, but I still try to get along. And I know there’s corruptness in the court – anyone who tries to deny it is blind. There’s corruptness in everything. I try to do things in the way that’s lawful, and I think the way some of this was done is wrong, but that’s my personal opinion. It isn’t something I can just make a change and do anything about. I think I still have the right to disagree with how some things are done.”
Judge Bryan seems satisfied, and is ready to come to his conclusions.
“Well, the law tells us to look at the nature of the offense and the history of the defendant and her characteristics. Let me talk about that latter thing for a minute. Before this all came up, Ms. Vernon was the salt of the earth. You couldn’t find a better person or a harder working person, as far as the case and the letters indicate. Since this happened the nature has come out with what she has done in the prison with the other inmates. It looks like what we have here is a good person who did a very bad thing. And that leads to the seriousness of this offense. This was a most serious offense, and it was a conspiracy that I’m afraid was well on the way to possible conclusion with horrible results. It may have been more your husband’s fault than yours, but that does not excuse you, and I guess in these days of women’s liberation, women are expected to speak with their own voice and not get dragged into things because of some guy, no matter how they feel about that guy.
“In light of her age, there should be some modification of the guidelines, but not much. This is a situation where there are a lot of people in the community who think this never should have happened – that is, the prosecution should never have happened. But these things are part of our law, and what we recognize as important to live in an ordered society, so we don’t hurt each other. This offense was serious.
“I’m not sure it’s of concern to deter Ms. Vernon from further offenses, but certainly any sentence should be sufficient to deter others form thinking they could somehow win by doing away with public officials whom they disagree with. Ms. Vernon is not likely to commit any further crimes, let alone a crime like this, …but the seriousness of this crime keeps coming back.
“When the smoke clears, a sentence of 12 years is sufficient. 12 years from when you were first arrested will get you to your mid-70s. I’m past that myself. There’s a lot of life to be led, even after such a lengthy sentence. I think it’s appropriate for the seriousness, but also considering all the other things in your life you’ve done so well.”
“Is it 12 years from when I was first arrested?” Vernon asks quietly, but with composure.
“10 less good time, and I think you’ll be able to use your prison service to be of service to others. We had Mr. Vernon in court this morning. He was very angry, and I guess you understand that. I told him that I was sorry that his life had come to this, and I’m sorry your life has come to this. I hope you do easy time, and that you continue to serve the other women in the prison system. You’re looking at a long hard time ahead, but it’s not the end, and it’s something you can live through and come through the other side, and be a better person than you were during this period of time.”
Everyone stands as the judge leaves the courtroom, and Vernon looks up at her attorney with big eyes, gives his hand a squeeze, and I could see her lips move in a “thank you.”
It was a day of extremes in personality, but both Vernons march forward into whatever the rest of their lives hold. They strike me each as people with a fatal flaw – his, a stubborn “you can’t tell me what to do” streak with a dash of heavy metals, and hers being a compliant small fish, trying to keep her life peaceful at the expense of good sense, and getting caught in a net larger than anything she could have imagined.
From Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator Website: