OK, I'll play devil's advocate -- in this case, I'll advocate the position that the judge's ruling was correct.LightinDarkness wrote:So...because the order to hand over the property said "You are guilty and we get your property" instead of an order "You are guilty and we demand you hand over your property" - Hovind gets the contempt charge dropped?
If that is the case, I stand amazed on two counts:
(1) First, even if there isn't an "operative command," why wouldn't it be assumed that he had to hand over property? The only other option is to take it by force, which costs the government money, and why should the government do that when Hovind is the one found guilty?
(2) How could the judge realize the need for an "operative command" and yet completely forget to include a few words making it a command in the ruling?
The issue is not whether Hovind refused to "hand over" the property. He lost the property as a result of the forfeiture order.
What Hovind did was to willfully interfere with the forfeiture order -- by filing papers with a court (frivolous papers, at that).
But, Hovind cannot be guilty of disobeying a court order IF there was nothing in the court order that prohibited him from doing what he did.
The problem is: What specific statute did Hovind violate?
Obstruction of court orders is a federal offense, but let's look at the statute:
--from 18 USC section 1509.Whoever, by threats or force, willfully prevents, obstructs, impedes, or interferes with, or willfully attempts to prevent, obstruct, impede, or interfere with, the due exercise of rights or the performance of duties under any order, judgment, or decree of a court of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both. [ . . . ]
The problem is, apparently, that Hovind simply filed some documents. It's unlikely that merely filing documents -- even with the intent to interfere with a court order -- would constitute "threats" or "force." Even if the effect of the conduct was to interfere successfully with the court order, that would not be a crime unless there is a statute that makes it a crime.
The fact that his behavior was morally wrong (which in my opinion it was) does not mean that he committed a crime.