Hakken Family

Remember the Hakkens? Man Who Fled to Cuba with Children Declared Insane.

Anti-government conspiracies singled out


Joshua and Sharyn Hakken
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Offices

Last spring, Joshua and Sharyn Hakken made national news when, after losing custody of their children in Louisiana, they subsequently kidnapped them in Tampa, Florida, and attempted to flee to Cuba in a boat. The country returned them and the couple was arrested and charged with a host of kidnapping and abuse claims that could have landed them life in prison.

Part of the reason the story made national news at the time was because there was a lot of confusing reporting about why the Hakkens were doing what they were doing. They were described as anti-government, though as former Reason Editor Mike Riggs researched at the time, the case seemed to have started with an arrest over marijuana possession.

Eventually the media moved on to other matters, but Joshua is back in the news again today. He's been declared insane and will likely be sent to a mental hospital. Here's the Tampa Bay Times:

Doctors have determined that Joshua Hakken, the Tampa engineer whose anti-government paranoia drove him to abduct his children and flee to Cuba, is insane, making it likely he will be treated in a mental hospital before standing trial.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe said in a hearing Wednesday that he plans to determine within six weeks where to send Joshua Hakken, 36, for mental health treatment. Defendants who are incompetent to stand trial because of mental illness are ordinarily treated until they have recovered enough acuity to understand courtroom proceedings.

The fate of Hakken's wife and co-defendant is less clear. It appears the prosecution of Sharyn Hakken will continue, although the couple's trial date, previously set for next week, has been postponed. Her attorney has said she was an unwitting victim who got bullied into the kidnapping scheme by an abusive husband.

So we're back to anti-government paranoia, but this time the evidence released by the prosecution takes it further than the vague information we were getting last year. Hakken is described is being part of the chemtrail, government-weather-control conspiracy crowd (if you're unfamiliar with this group, just Google "HAARP").

And so this saga comes to an awkward end, but with a frankly weird epilogue from Times reporter Peter Jamison. In an explanatory video posted with his story, Jamison describes these conspiracies as originating from the far right and casually associated them with the Tea Party. He is not incorrect to point out that there are Tea Party members that are openly protesting chemtrails, as a quick online search will uncover. But a quick online search with the right keywords will also find some libertarians and progressives also buying in to chemtrail concerns. There's no information out there that suggests that chemtrail and weather control conspiracy theories are in any way part of the Tea Party movement, so it's an odd connection for Jamison to try to make.

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  1. so it’s an odd connection for Jamison to try to make.

    It’s called “smearing”.

  2. Release the Hakken!

    1. +eleventy

  3. Defendants who are incompetent to stand trial because of mental illness are ordinarily treated until they have recovered enough acuity to understand courtroom proceedings.

    I need someone of the lawyerly persuasion to explain something to me here.

    The insanity defense is something that few people understand. A lawyer, having given me a good explanation of what it all really means, I think I understand it– and I may be bold enough to say that as a lay person, I understand it better than most lay people. Make of that what you will.

    But here is what I don’t understand, and this has occurred in several high profile cases, the Aurora theater shooting as one example.

    If they determine you’re insane and can’t stand trial, what is the point of treating the defendant until he/she is no longer “decompensated” and can then stand trial? If they didn’t understand the consequences of what they were doing at the time of the crime, treating them to where they understand the courtroom proceedings now seems irrelevant to their mental state at the time of the alleged crime?

    What gives?

    1. Paul, you so cray!

    2. Incompetent and insane are two different things.

  4. Judging by that photo, he looks no more insane than James Holmes. And as we all know, a picture is worth a thousand snarks.

  5. Well of COURSE he’s insane. Just look at his eyes in that picture! Duh! That’s Michele Backmann insane right there!

    Get thee to a lobotomatorium!

  6. Loony is omnipresent, true fact.

    Paul: Someone can be too insane to competently be examined and bear witness at a trial, without necessarily having been or being so insane that they “didn’t know right from wrong” at the time of their actions and thus don’t meet the mens rea requirement for almost all crimes.

    You can’t even present an insanity defense at trial until the trial starts; if someone’s too mentally incompetent to participate in the trial, you have to see if you can do something about that, if possible, to get to that point and see where it goes.

    (People have been known to go crazier after a traumatic action, or just in general, thus supporting the idea that no matter how insane they are now, they could have been sane enough at the time to be culpable.

    Part of the process, ideally, is working those two different things out.)

    1. Ah, thank you for the response. I understand now. Too decompensated to even plead insanity. So the insanity plea is still a viable option when the trial starts.

  7. so it’s an odd connection for Jamison to try to make.

    No it’s not. Here’s the syllogism:

    People who believe in chemtrails are bad
    Libertarians are bad.
    People who believe in chemtrails = Libertarians

    There, was that so hard to understand?

    1. #logic

  8. There’s no information out there that suggests that chemtrail and weather control conspiracy theories are in any way part of the Tea Party movement, so it’s an odd connection for Jamison to try to make.

    Anything to smear a political opponent. The truth doesn’t matter.

    1. The Times is quite the left-loving paper. Surprisingly so for a market that really leans more the other direction.

  9. At a Reason event sloopy an I attended over a year ago, a very drunk Thaddeus Russell was hitting on a very attractive young blonde woman. I interrupted them to save the poor woman from his unsubtle sloppy advances only to have her turn around and rant to me about chemtrails.

    1. Well, there ya go…

      1. Just sayin’, the stereotype of a moronic libertarian conspiracy theorist is not completely unfounded. Alex Jones attracts libertarians and progressives. It’s why infowars gets so much traffic and always is #3 in most visited political websites according to Alexa.

        1. Oh, sure. I’ve met some serious wackos at LP events. It’s not surprising, of course, when you think about it–where else can anti-government people turn?

          1. Well, 10 years ago, they would have turned to the Green Party, and most of them are still camping out with the Occupy movement.

            But if you really think the government is poisoning you with vapors, it’s hard to stay attached to the party in power.

    2. Did Mr. Russell thank you for the favor?

    3. Every political party/group attracts people who subscribe to discredited crackpot theories.

      I might agree that libertarians attract a higher percentage of Chemtrailers.

      The Democrats on the other hand attract self-described communists and socialists.

      1. Even the LP has at least a couple of million people who will vote for their candidates and spout off in public fora. That’s plenty of room for crazy. But it’s a fact that the major parties, with their many millions, have the vast majority of the crazy. And the evil.

        1. When crazy and evil are mainstream and respectable, then sanity and morality are shunned. I have met and worked with several crazy chemtrail people in my time and while they are a bit creepy, I’d rather they spent their time on that than on trying to dominate me like the Progressives and Socons do.

          1. Progressives and socons have guns, SWAT teams, the police and the military. Chemtrailers have youtube and friendster.

      2. There are probably more chemtrailers on the far left, but lately some of them seem to have migrated to the right.

        I take it as a sign of libertarians increasing cultural influence.

  10. Oh. The more obvious way to parse that headline is to mean that the children were declared insane.

    1. Funny you mention that. That’s exactly how I read it when I first saw it.

  11. There is a dude that know what the deal is.


  12. Here is what is going on.

    It’s not that there’s any particular philosophical connection between the Tea Party and conspiracy theorists, or between libertarians and conspiracy theorists.

    It’s that conspiracy theories tend to attach themselves to non-mainstream political philosophies, particularly when/if those political philosophies seem to be gaining popular acceptance.

    10 years ago, all the lunatics were progressives and anarchists, after the 1999 Seattle WTO protests. I remember distinctly, how you would go talk to some random lefty loon, who would bitch about global capitalism and free trade, explain how any violence in the protests was probably the result of false flag operations, and then launch into theories about Pan Am flight 800, the Echelon project, and chemtrails.

    So, given that loons seem to think that libertarianism is a good home for them, we ought to treat this as a sign that we must have some sort of level of intellectual credibility.

  13. “the case seemed to have started with an arrest over marijuana possession.”
    A lot of children are taken solely on the basis of cannabis possession by one or both parents.
    Cannabis is a far safer and more responsible choice of relaxant than alcohol.
    The prohibition of cannabis puts a huge burden on society.

  14. If the government takes away your children isn’t being paranoid about the government wisdom rather than insanity?

  15. I’m happy to believe that the Hakkens were really mentally ill people who couldn’t care for their children.

    But the media’s shitty reporting on the subject didn’t leave that impression. Other than some vague generalities about them babbling some crazy stuff to the police on a single occasion, the media did not bother to investigate why their children were taken, and indeed left the impression they thought it was perfectly acceptable to take people’s kids away because they smoked weed and were anti-government.

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