Brent Ashworth tells about his testimony at the preliminary hearing to decide whether Mark Hofmann should be bound over for trial. Was it effective testimony? I’ll let you decide.
Brent: I wasn’t saying anything nice about him. I asked Bob Stott, afterwards I said, “Bob, how come they didn’t call me back?” I said, “I would have called me back and tried to…” He said, “Look, you were throwing javelins,” is the way he put it, “at his client for two solid hours. You knew way too much.” He said, “He’s not going to ever call you back. Don’t worry about it.”
We will also talk about a tactical mistake made by Mark Hofmann’s defense team, which caused Mark to decide to plead guilty rather than risk a jury trial.
Brent: Hofmann’s attorney asked to meet with the judge in chambers and Stott met with him, the two lead [lawyers.] And Yengich says, “My client is really still suffering from his wounds.” His knee and his fingers have been blown [off.] He was being pushed in there every day by his dad and his wife in a wheelchair. And he said, “I am unable to adequately visit with him because of the pain and suffering.” He says, “It would really benefit if we had one week off from this [court.] If we could ask for a week off, [it would really help.] Judge Grant told me, “By this point, I wouldn’t get to give him a day off.”
But he said, “It struck me that maybe I should because I might get reversed when I got further up the chain. So I gave him a week off:. And he said, “What really griped me is when he came back a week later and says I need one more week.” And he says, “I was really [angry.] I didn’t want to.”
But he finally decided to give him the second week. We gave him the week. He says “Do you know Brent? Something funny happened. The one thing that I didn’t have before he got those two weeks off, is I knew he’s a bad guy. But I didn’t have a motive for him to kill Steve and Kathy. I didn’t have any motive for murder there. And that’s why I was questioning whether to turn it over or not. You know, at that point, I knew he was a bad guy. I didn’t like him, but he said, a killer they didn’t make him out to be.
And so, I was wondering, and we gave him the two weeks. He says, “When we came back, that’s when they had Throckmorton. And they found the forgeries. He says you might not have known the sequence of that. But he says that came about during that two weeks that Hofmann had his two weeks off. He says they nailed his butt to the wall while he was gone is when they found the cracking in the ink. And they found the forgeries.
GT: So was that kind of a mistake by the defense then to ask for the two weeks off?
Brent: Oh, yeah, it was a big mistake.
A decade after Mark was in prison, one of his forgeries came on the market. The Emily Dickinson forgery was briefly touched on in the Netflix documentary. It turns out that Brent Ashworth played a critical role in identifying that forgery.
GT: So, basically what you’re telling me is Mark offered that back to you in 1984, I believe it was.
Brent: He offered it to me in ’84. He knew that was my favorite poet. That was manufactured for me, I’m just sure.
Brent: Nobody else knew about it. It ends up, 13 years later.
GT: But you read it and said..
Brent: I told Mark, it’s horrible. I said, “It looks like her writing to me.” I didn’t question the fact that she’d written it, but I didn’t want it. I’m not going to spend $10,000 for a poem that I think’s the worst one she’d ever written. I didn’t know Hofmann had written it. Now, it makes perfect sense because of Hofmann’s ideology, “God doesn’t care about us, so we don’t care about him.” That’s kind of [Mark’s attitude,] which is not the way Latter-day Saint people that love Emily Dickinson know about her writing.
GT: Right. So, essentially, he sold it to somebody else. It floated around the US and then ends up in the Sotheby’s catalog.
Brent: What happened was that Shannon Flynn had taken it down to Todd Axelrod for Mark [Hofmann]. Todd Axelrod was this dealer down in Nevada. There used to be autograph stores in about six big malls around the country. There was one that I visited years ago in the Galleria Mall in Dallas, Texas. There was one, as I recall, in Florida. There was one in Philadelphia. There were six big malls around the country. Todd began in Las Vegas at the Showplace Mall, right on the strip. That’s where his first store was. That’s where Shannon Flynn took that and a few other things to him, before the Hofmann bombings and all that. It’s interesting, so you might ask Shannon about it sometime. He carried that stuff down there.
Find out how in our next conversation with Brent! Do you think Axelrod sold it without disclosing that it was affiliated with Mark Hofmann? What are your thoughts about Brent’s testimony in court?
When it comes to Hofmann, the best advice is that of the Arab scholar and religious leader Ali Bin Abi-Taleb, who said that keeping one’s distance from an ignorant person is equivalent to keeping company with a wise man.