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.

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.