Hakkens' Political Views Were Exaggerated, Spun, In State Grab of Their Children

More than a little smearing by officials


TAMPA — Politics has assumed an oddly prominent role in the criminal case of Joshua and Sharyn Hakken, the Tampa engineers accused of kidnapping their sons and fleeing more than 300 miles on a sailboat to Cuba.

At the case's outset, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said the couple were "antigovernment," a characterization echoed in news coverage. Some sympathizers have bristled at the focus on the Hakkens' ideology, saying the pair have been unfairly painted as extremists.

Interviews this week with the couple's defense attorneys and authorities in Louisiana — where the Hakkens had early run-ins with law enforcement last year — suggest elements of truth to both perspectives, and offer clues to the beliefs undergirding the Hakkens' actions.

While the pair hold deep-seated suspicions of government, according to their attorneys, early descriptions of some of their political activities by law enforcement officials now appear to have been inaccurate.

In particular, there is no available evidence the Hakkens attended an "antigovernment rally" last summer outside New Orleans, as was initially asserted by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. …

The portrait of the defendants emerging from their attorneys is that of an educated couple who adhered to some tenets of old-line libertarianism — distrust of public schools and organized religion — as well as ideas of newer vintage that fall well outside the mainstream.