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  • Prominent Heathen charged with theft

    Kansas City police sergeant and Chieftain of Jotun’s Bane Kindred Mark Ludwig Stinson is charged with stealing more than $75,000 from his mother over a two year period, resulting in her eviction from an assisted-living facility.

    Mark Stinson with his youngest of 3 children.

    Background
    In addition to his role as Chieftain of Jotun’s Bane Kindred, Stinson hosts one of the largest Heathen gatherings in the US, Lightening Across the Plains (LATP).  In 2011, 225 Heathens, including approximately 70 children, attended LATP and the Midwest Thing.

    You can read Kari Tauring’s report on last year’s LATP here.

    Stinson has also written several books on Heathenry and has been active in the Heathen community since 2007.

    Saga Erickson, who has known Stinson for several years, says, “Mark is a great man who deserves the benefit of the doubt.”  She first met Stinson at the Superior Heathen Gathering and says he has been instrumental in bringing the Heathen faith into an accessible form through his books and articles.

    Although she doesn’t know the particulars of the case, Erickson described Stinson as a man of sound ethics.  “We have in Heathenry concepts called the Nine Noble Virtues,” said Ericskson, “From what I have seen and experienced in knowing Mark, is that he is a man of noble virtue. He is strong, resiliant and trustworthy. He is generous, compassionate and selfless.”

    Erickson pointed out that Stinson is very much a leader in both his local and national religious community, “Mark is a great chieftan. He has been a roll model in the Heathen community and in his own kindred. His ‘can do’ attitude has brought many Heathens forward to form their own households and kindreds and has been the model of “We are our deeds.” He is a strong and worthy chieftan, who is very much a father figure to his kindred as well as the greater Heathen community.”

    The Case
    Stinson was granted durable power of attorney over his mother’s finances starting in 2008.  Court documents claim Stinson wrote out checks to himself or cash in the amount of just over $66,000.  He spent an additional $16,600 on car repairs, personal expenses, and gifts to friends.  Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd notes the alleged theft was uncovered when Stinson’s mother was evicted from her assisted-living complex after her rent wasn’t paid for five months.

    “The charges are very serious and the defendant faces up to four years in prison for felony theft,” says criminal defense attorney Tony Armandii.  “It will all come down to receipts.”

    Armandii says while the sums involved may seem like a large amount and the checks made out for cash appear damning, it could all be explained at the trial.  “When you have someone in a care-taker role there are expenses to pay and many reasons why a person would write checks out to cash.  Was the defendant reimbursing himself for bills he took care of?  Did the mother tell him it was OK for him to use funds to repair his car since the car was used for running errands?  Other questions are what is the mental condition of the mother?  Are there family members with a vested interest in making accusations?”  Armandii was careful to note he was speaking generally about cases involving alleged abuse of power of attorney and not about this specific case.

    While Jotun’s Bane Kindred has not yet issued an official statement, members and friends of the Kindred are posting messages of support on their facebook page.

    Erickson says it is important to not take what the media says at face value, “The media is out there to sell a story or a point of view that is not necessarily the truth but causes the most hysteria. Sensationalism is not truth. Truth will come out in time, with research and fact finding.”

    David Carron, Redesman for the Troth, said, “… these charges are particularly shocking and unsettling as we are supposed to be a family religion. [Stinson] himself has acknowledged this via his many words. It is my understanding that he has claimed his innocence, that the press has only seen one side and that this is a family squabble. I hope for his sake that he is correct. I expect that justice will be done. Time and Tyr will straighten this out. It goes without saying that it seems quite unfortunate for his mother. She is, at best, caught in the middle and, at worst, was greatly wronged and made homeless and certainly has my sympathies.”

    Currently, Stinson is free on a $10,000 bond and has been suspended without pay from the Kansas City Police Department.  Stinson’s mother is living with another family member.  Stinson declined to comment on advice from his attorney.

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    21 Responses

    1. I am forced to ask why you got the Troth involved, since JBK is not affiliated with the Troth (and Stinson isn’t, either).

    2. I am responding to this because 1) I live with my 94yo mother and have some access to her money. 2) Until recently I worked with the elderly in their homes and if I had been so inclined could have ripped them off easily but chose not to.

      I believe when we are in charge of other people’s things (no matter what the things are) always there is the temptation to help oneself. We are all subject to temptation in one form or another it is whether or not we act on the temptation. AND if we act on it there are always consequences. This man in his position of POA made the chose to steal from his mother resulting in her becoming homeless due to his actions. I believe he should be prosecuted and suffer the consequences of his choices. It’s called being held responsible.

    3. It would seem this man chose to take his position of power (POA) and misuse it to the extreme detriment of another (his mother becoming homeless). There is evidence he acted with blatant disregard for another which I believe deserved consequences. Mom’s rent wasn’t paid for 5 months? If he was in charge of her money and bills he knew it was due every month and he chose not to pay it. Just because someone is prominent and respected in their community does not mean they are immune to temptation or unethical behavior.

      Taking advantage of a position of power to the detriment or others is what sexual perpetrators do, violent people do and unfortunately governments seem to being doing. The man made the choice to steal from his mother by misusing his status of POA and deserved to suffer the consequences, which I would hope makes him pay back the money and do jail time. It’s called being responsible for one’s actions. AND this wasn’t a one time thing ~ it went on for over $70,000.00 and lots of goodies for this guy time.

    4. Reblogged this on Marcel Gomes – Sweden and commented:
      I will give Mr Stinson the benefit of a doubt and let this be determined in court rather than in media.

      My impression (though we have only communicated over the web) of him has always been good.

      • what is it exactly you are “giving him the benefot of the doubt” of? the fact that he allegedly misappropriated over $70,000.00 or the fact his actions in regards to his family fly in the face of the numerous articles he has written about “heathen families”…

        • It’s called “innocent until proven guilty” and used to be a tenet of our legal system. Let’s let the legal system do its job. If indeed he is guilty of these crimes, there will be plenty of time to warm up the tar and chase geese for feathers. Until then let’s at least pretend this is still America, OK?

          • Thank you Richard very well said, I wanted to remind people of our honored constitution as well, especially to the first post that went on and on about the man’s guilt based on just the story that was posted and has him tried and convicted already….:/

          • Consider this, he just might be innocent of any wrong doing. Meanwhile just by being accused, his reputation is in ruins,his job in jeopardy,and even if innocent, it is going to take a long time to over come merely being accused. Some will always believe him wrong simply for the fact he was accused. If h is guilty, no problem, but if he is innocent then what? What would want if someone accused you of a crime?

    5. [...] So let’s get started!Lightning Across the Plains Organizer Accused of Misappropriating Funds: PNC-Minnesota reports on the case of Mark Ludwig Stinson, Chieftain of Jotun’s Bane Kindred, which hosts Lightning Across the Plains, the Midwest’s [...]

    6. Not a Heathen myself,but I don’t like the trauma this will cause the Heathen community. I will wait for the trial before I make any judgments.

      Remember being accused proves nothing in itself and our system is based on the idea that you are considered innocent until proven guilty beyond the reasonable doubt.

      Whatever actually happened I also feel sorry for the mother and his fellow Heathens.

    7. I can see where the cash may possibly be accounted for if he has proof; medical, shopping, etc. My issue is 5+ months of unpaid rent at the mothers assisted living facility – resulting in her eviction. How can that possibly be an accident…

      • Morri,

        I have had a bill go unpaid for 5 months before, when the billing agency lost my auto-pay information.

        This is quite possibly not at all his fault, and is the result of a computer failure, or even a stop payment issued by an accusation bearing relative.

        When I was in the military we were given NUMEROUS reasons to never sign a Power of Attorney that we didn’t trust, and to use only Special POAs with direct instruction, as this could happen to us while deployed.

        The sad point is, even if it is malevolent, he has done no theft… as the POA gave HIM control of the assets legally, and getting a theft charge to stick is going to be nigh impossible.

        I am saying there are explanations that fit, and with our nation being one of Innocent until proven Guilty, you need to let the court decide and not proclaim either on a public forum…

        • I have to say that in all my years of working in the legal system I have never heard of a POA having any RIGHT to take money whether signed to themselves or to cash without proof of the expense. Typically a POA would pay the bills directly to show proof of where the funds were going. To pay yourself or to CASH that is definitely a “RED” flag to the legal system. The thing I haven’t seen anyone mention is that the State of Missouri investigated this case and after finding just cause to prosecute they turned it over to the prosecuting attorney of the county the mother lives in. Therefore, it is the STATE not any family member that is prosecuting Mr. Stinson. People forget that a power of attorney still has limitations. It is not a “do anything you want” document. There are still legal issues if you do not follow the law set forth to protect the people under such POA, i.e. the mother. The bank documents, elderly living location documents and the depostitions of those directly involved will prove the case. Not anyone on any website, including me. What is in legal form will be the resolve to prove guilty or not. Whether Mr Stinson is a great leader, efficient officer or loving father does not hold any regard “IF” found guilty there is no excuse due to his legal knowledge. Just like if a trained military special forces or trained black belt engages in physical aggression and someone without these skills is injured; the person with the training is held to a higher punishment due to their knowledge/training. Same thing here, “IF” guilty Mr Stinson SHOULD be held to a higher punishment due to his training and knowledge.

      • It’s possible, especially since there was that little matter of a financial crash in the years since 2008, that the money in said accounts actually ran out five months ago, causing relatives to start looking into the books and seek to blame the caregiver for the expenditures prior to that. It’s also possible that the family dispute itself resulted in bills not getting paid for any number of reasons.

        When it comes to things like this, especially when there’s money involved, all *kinds* of family disputes and accusations are shockingly common. Especially when there are religious differences, possible inheritances, and old family issues involved, people get crazy.

        This one’s a really good one to wait for more facts on. There’s just too many possibilities and not enough information.

    8. Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services investigated this before charges were filed. Not only did he (allegedly) stop paying her rent, causing her to be evicted and owe the facility over $12,000, but he (allegedly) stopped paying the pharmacy and she owes over $9,000 to them. I can’t imagine how that could have been an oversight. I also can’t imagine a legitimate reason for checks from her account being made out to his friends. I do not believe that family and honor are really important to this man.

      • Gee,why even bother with at ail, we can judge him though the media and send him straight to prison without wasting time and cost of a trial. If you were accused of something, is this how you would like your case done, stir up pubic anger long before the trial so that you have a biased jury from the start.

        I see too much sensationalism going on before the trial. All I really need to know is he was arrested and the charges, then the trial and verdict. Most of the in between stuff is little more than gossip which I detest. If they can prove the charges,fine, then sentence him,but as I have said, let him have his trial first.

        Ever notice the real oddity about how we handle crime, nothing that we do even gives any form of justice to the victim of the crime? Victims are not considered to be important in crime.beyond being evidence in the criminal case. So in this case, the mother is not going to be helped in any way, nor is her debts going to be taken care are of nor will she be getting the medical care that she needs. So though we do have a system of law, it has very little to do with getting justice,as far as the victim of the crime is concerned.

        So if we are concerned about justice, are we going to beproviding the money to put things right for the oldwomen, or does she really count,despite our alleged concern.

      • Kajira, that is an interesting name. Grins a Kassar grin.

    9. We should look at this more as a police officer is accused of defrauding his infirm mother. Highlighting the pagan aspect is just media sensationalism detracting from the fact of corrupt law enforcement.

      Don’t let the press spin this into a paganism issue

    10. Journalism school taught me that the most important facts about a story belong at the top. Why is the focus of this piece on Stinson’s religion? Is it not more newsworthy that the man accused of stealing from his mother is a police sergeant? Aren’t the facts of “The Case” more important than his “Background?” Unless you are implying that Stinson’s religious beliefs are tied to his actions — which would never happen in an article about a christian or jewish person accused of a similar crime.

      • Many news articles are written in the inverted pyramid, which is what you are referring to from your college days, but not all. There are many reasons an article would not be written following the inverted pyramid. In this case, I chose to not follow the inverted pyramid because I tailored it for our primary audience, which are Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists.

        The most important information was in the headline and the lead. The background helped put the person at the center of the story into context within our religious community (Although Stinson is well known in the Heathen communities, Pagan and Heathen communities don’t interact very much) and then the details of the case follow. He holds positions of trust and authority in both his professional and religious life. If you read mainstream press articles on this same case, you’ll note that they delve into his successful police career to place him within context of his geographical community.

        If a police officer who was also a well known Christian author and Christian organization leader (or any other religion) were charged with the same crime, the mainstream press in his geographical area would highlight his position of police officer (or other job) to place him in context within his geographical community and religious news organizations (such as CSM) would highlight his involvement and accomplishments within Christianity to place him in context within his religious community. Especially when the actions a person is accused of directly violate the ethics of the religious community in a general sense and the specific beliefs of the individual as communicated in their books and in their leadership roles. Being a Chieftain, an author, and the organizer for Lightening Across the Plains is not any more or less noteworthy or respectable than Stinson’s police career.

        This case is of interest to Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists on several levels. Is Stinson guilty or not guilty of the charges? And if guilty or not guilty, how do his actions fit with the ethics of his religion, especially since he is a leader (if not a religious leader) within the religion. Refusing to write about those levels would be a disservice to our community.

        Stinson is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and we will continue to cover this story in as unbiased, but thorough, way as possible.

    11. [...]  Prominent Heathen charged with theft  Kansas City police sergeant and Chieftain of Jotun’s Bane Kindred Mark Ludwig Stinson is [...]

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