5. GOOD AND BAD FORGERIES
The Library of Congress was asked by the Schiller Wapner Galleries,... which also owns part of the 'Oath of a Freeman,' to authenticate the document. In a statement mentioning that the discovery of the oath "would be one of the most important and exciting finds of the century," the Library said its examination "found nothing inconsistent with a mid-17th-century attribution, though additional tests remain to be conducted" (Undated clipping from the New York Times)
In chapter 6 of Tracking, under Oath of a Freeman, I wrote the following:
"The Oath of a Freeman, as far as monetary value is concerned, was supposed to be Mark Hofmann's greatest discovery. Mr. Hofmann, in fact, claimed it was worth 1.5 million dollars! Although this figure may be inflated, experts agree that it would be worth a great deal of money if it could be proven authentic. What Hofmann claimed to have was the only extant copy of the first document printed in America....
"When I first learned of the Oath of a Freeman I was very skeptical with regard to its authenticity. It reminded me too much of the story of the Salamander letter. The Salamander letter was supposed to have been obtained for only $25 and sold for $40,000 (1,600 times the original price). Hofmann claimed he obtained the Oath of a Freeman for only $25 and wanted to sell it for $1,500,000, which would be 60,000 times its original purchase price! I also felt that the Oath would be the very type of thing a forger would want to produce. The text fits easily on just one side of a single sheet of paper. In fact, the Hofmann document is only 4 by 6 inches in size."
In his confession, Mark Hofmann freely admits that he forged the Oath of a Freeman and gives some fascinating details concerning how it was done:
Q. And I'm also showing you a negative and a Velox and a receipt of another document titled the Oath of a Freeman. And a kind of oldish looking printed document. The Oath of a Freeman, let me start with the Oath, if I can describe it as that. Do you have any familiarity with that?
A. Yes, I had that made and printed.
Q. Okay, I'll show you the receipt under the name Mike Hansen, 448-4584.
Q. Did you use the name Mark Harris or Mike Hansen?
A. I would get [guess?] the word Hansen was used, but Harris was written down but it's hard to [for?] me to say.
Q. Is that your telephone number?
A. I believe that used to be one of my telephone numbers, yes.
Q. I'll tell you right now it is. Also there is a $2 check written on your checking account around that same time. Do you happen to know what the $2 was for? To DeBouzek Printing, I'm speaking of.
A. The only thing I can imagine would be I only had $45 with me and it looks like the cost of this was $47 so I would have, or when I had $45 with me, I mean in cash, so I would have written a check to make up the balance.
Q. Where did you The problem is, of course, that DeBouzek doesn't know for sure. They don't have anything for sure for $2 so they said obviously he didn't have enough cash. The Oath of a Freeman that starts out the first line, "Give thanks, all yee people give thanks to the Lord." Why did you have that done?
A. My intention was to use this, a printing from this at Argosy Bookstore in order to, well, my intention was to smuggle or take into Argosy Bookstore a printing of this priced at $25, which I recall I wrote on the back. And purchase it for $25, getting a receipt from them with the title Oath of a Freeman on it and use that receipt in order to establish a provenance for the document, which actually was not used. I decided I did not like the appearance of this document so I made some new artwork and copied with a photocopy machine, on to a piece of old paper, my version of the Oath of a Freeman, and I used that for the purpose that I originally intended to use this one for.
Q. Similar technique to the one that Lynn Jacobs described?
A. Yes. He taught me that technique. Now, I don't know if you want this on the record or not but Lynn Jacobs, as far as the technique he used was not to defraud, you know, so I hate to associate him with any forgery techniques since he was not a part of any of this.
Q. So that is the plate that you had prepared on March 8th. You didn't actually use the printed material from that plate to salt, if I may use that term, Argosy Book?
A. That's a good term. No, I did not. I used the same idea but not this identical printing.
Q. Why $25?
A. Having looked at items on the second floor of Argosy Book in their Broadside or print, or engravings department, that seemed to me to be a reasonable price for what appeared to be a 19th Century document of this type.
. . . . .
Q. ...Now, March 25th, 1985 there's a receipt, M. Hansen for Oath of a Freeman.... Is that you as well?
A. Yes. The receipt would have been for a plate similar to this, yes.
. . . . .
Q. What did you do with the plate on March 25th, 1985?
A. I am not sure if it was on that day but soon thereafter I used it to print.
Q. If this will refresh your recollection, I can tell you that approximately between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. the next day you were on a plane to New York.
A. Yes. I probably would have stayed up all night printing, which actually would only take a few minutes but then aging the document, manufacturing ink probably at the same time, both the printing and the writing ink.
Q. How did you prepare the printers ink for the Oath?
A. I knew that this document would be scrutinized so I took pains to assure that the ink would not differ from the 17th Century printing ink. I manufactured the ink.
. . . . .
Q. You were describing for us the ink manufacture.
A. Yes. I got some, I obtained some paper from the same time period, approximately.
A. This paper would have probably come, would have definitely come from Brigham Young University Library. The paper did not have printing on it, which I guess they'll be happy to hear that. That paper I burnt in an apparatus to make carbon black. The reason I went through this trouble is because I thought that there was a possibility that a carbon 14 test would be performed on the ink.
. . . . .
Q. Go ahead.
A. The apparatus that I used had a glass tube chimney which caught the carbon and that's how I accumulated it. It was mixed with a linseed oil.
Q. Any special linseed oil?
A. It would have been chemically, it was chemically pure linseed oil which I treated to some extent.
Q. How did you treat the linseed oil?
A. Well, I'm going into all of this. You are just dying to hear this, aren't you. The linseed oil was heavily boiled, which thickens it and then it was burned.
A. I was basically following a recipe from 17th Century ink making recipe.
Q. Where did you get that?
A. From a book. I know you will ask me where I saw the book, which I again, I can probably find for you but I can't describe. I believe it is on, it's a microfilm book from that time period in the University of Utah Library but I can't remember the title of it.
Q. Okay, go ahead.
A. I also added some tannic acid or at least a solution of tannic acid which had dried. It was made from a leather binding from that same time period which had been boiled in distilled water until it turned a nice brown color. There's also some bees wax added, just ordinary bees wax, nothing special to it, and I believe that's all.
Q. And that made the printers ink?
A. That was the printers ink.
Q. After you made the printers ink, you have the plate, picked it up on the 25th, you're at your house where you lived?
A. Right, I was downstairs in my office and printed it. I would have rolled the ink on to the plate. I would have put the paper, that I haven't yet described where I got that, on the plate. A piece of felt behind it, another thick metal copper plate on top of it all and pressed with a C-clamp.
Q. Did you alter the plate in any way? Grind down any of the letters?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. Why was that done?
A. For a couple reasons. One being so that it could not be identified as being printed from a zinc plate which I guess is the best reason of all why I did it.
Q. How did you do it?
A. First of all, the whole plate would have been treated in some process with iron wool to round out the corners of the lettering. Some of the letters would have been ground even finer with a small drill containing a fine grinding tip stone. In fact, I believe that was done first and then afterwards the whole thing was iron wooled.
. . . . .
MR. BIGGS: ... I remember reading in the Library of Congress analysis that went on for umteen hundred pages, they say it obviously came from printing letters because they were different. They pressed on the paper in different amounts and so that it was down further in to the paper and so forth.
A. Part of that would have been the unevenness of the pressure applied by the C-clamp which again is typical, I believe of the crude printing that would have been done. And the other is I believe that too, some letters I purposefully ground down. I can't remember though how or what method I used or how I decided. It may have been random but I can't remember how I did that.
Q. Now, let's turn over and look at this. Do you recognize that?
A. I don't believe that I ever saw the negative before but I certainly recognize the photograph.
Q. What is it?
A. It is the Oath of a Freeman, meaning the one with the border around it that purports to be from the 17th Century.
Q. Who created the artwork from which that negative was produced?
A. I did.
Q. Now the receipt for the preparation of the plate says March 25th. How long did it take you to develop the artwork that you took in on the 25th for DeBouzek to make the plate from?
A. Several days. Probably more than a week.
Q. How long had you been developing Maybe the best word to use would be how long was the conceptual stage for the Oath of a Freeman?
A. Probably more than a month before I actually began working on it. Meaning in that time I was doing research on it.
Q. Where primarily was the research done?
A. I started out in the University of Utah Library. They have a printed facsimile edition of the Bay Psalm Book. Also have a copy, I believe, of two different volumes of that book on microfilm. I studied all three of those sources. In fact, that is the source of the type that was used in preparing the artwork. I also used it to research such things as the spelling of words, the characteristics of the printings.
. . . . .
Q. Did you do that with the spelling of the words to some extent?
A. To some extent. The spelling I believe reflects the spelling of the composer who composed the Bay Psalm Book.
Q. How about the border?
A. The border also came from the Bay Psalm Book.
Q. I have somewhere in this book of mine a page from Book 4 of the Bay Psalm Book and it has, or appears to have
A. Yes, this is the page of the 90th Psalm and it has the same type face as what I used in creating the border. Particularly look at the right, the furthest right character on that page. It is identical to the characters which I composed in the border of the Oath.
. . . . .
Q. How is it physically done? Tell me the process by which the very last character of the 4th Book, Psalm 90 Book, the border
A. These designs also appear in other pages in the book. It was a simple matter of Xeroxing from the facsimile of the Psalm Book several Xeroxes of the pages which I wanted to copy the flourishes or designs. I then used a razor blade, actually an xacto knife to cut out the letters and the designs that I wanted. I glued them on a piece of paper and that was on, and then after they were glued on a piece of paper I Xeroxed my composure and that was the artwork which I took into DeBouzek....
Q. I think you told me this but tell me again because I've obviously forgotten. The type face for the body of the Oath of a Freeman, where that came from?
A. Came from the Psalm Book also. The Bay Psalm Book.
. . . . .
Q. How many original forged Oaths of a Freeman did you do in March of '85?
A. Just the one, which is possessed by Justin Schiller.
Q. So the one you gave to Wilding, Jensen, et al., that was done after at a different time?
Q. Than the Justin Schiller?
A. Yes. That would have been done probably the day before Wilding received it, much later. I had no intentions at the time that I produced the Oath, which is now in New York, of ever producing another one. However, I still had the plate and I was at that time under considerable pressure to satisfy Wilding, et al. And that is when I produced the other copy of the Oath. My intention was never to let it be marketed.
Q. What was your intention?
A. Thinking that that would be too great a coincidence to have two copies of the Oath. My intention was when the Oath, owned by me, which was in the possession of Justin Schiller, when they sold it use that money and claim that that was this particular Oath and pay off my debtors, namely Wilding and company and never to have the second Oath known on the market.
Q. And they would have given you back the second Oath?
A. Well, yes. The original idea was that I would maintain possession of it anyway and so my belief was there would be no way of them nothing [knowing?] when one Oath sold that it was a different Oath than the one which they believed they had an ownership interest in/
. . . . .
Q. There is a little something written on the back, on the verso.
A. This is is [sic] the one in New York.
A. Yes, it's Elizabethan handwriting which says, as I remember, Oath of a Freeman, or something, Oath of the Freeman or Oath of Freeman, something like that.
Q. Did you do that?
A. Yes, I did.
. . . . .
Q. What type of ink did you use?
A. Ink of my own composure. Tannic acid, ferric sulfate, probably gum arabic and logwood, as I remember.
Q. What did you use to write it with?
A. Quill pen.
. . . . .
Q. Did you create the quill that you write with?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. Out of what?
A. A feather and a razor blade.
Q. Any particular type of feather?
A. I believe it was a turkey feather.
. . . . .
A. By the time I forged the Oath I considered myself a pretty good forger. I thought I had a pretty good knowledge of different techniques that would be used in analyzing it.
. . . . .
Q. We are doing an invaluable service here I guess. Did you attempt to age the document after it was printed and the verso was placed on it?
A. Yes. That's when I would have aged it. As far as the oxidizing of the writing on the back, the handwriting, I believe that would have been done with ammonia. It might have also been done with suction. I believe I described that technique before.
Q. Well, there was some talk at one time of placing it in a display case right next to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Did you have any inclination it was going to be that big?
A. For the reasons I just gave, it wouldn't be surprising. It is obviously a valuable historical document. I wasn't too concerned with having it displayed with the Declaration of Independence. My major concern was making as much off of it as I could.
Q. Why did you use Schiller and Wapner? Why not just do it yourself?
A. I had a good relationship with them and I thought that they were, they had better contacts than I in making whatever negotiations.
Q. What was your initial negotiation with them concerning what they would be paid for acting as your agent in the sale of this Oath originally?
A. Originally it was that if it sold for one million dollars or more, we would split 50/50 the proceeds. If it sold for less than a million dollars, I had a right to decline, in which case they were to receive nothing.
. . . . .
Q. Then there is some document on August 5th concerning, therefore and so forth. Okay, on August 12th, '85, the American Antiquarian Society writes Justin Schiller and makes some observations concerning the Oath, right?
Q. And wants it sent to New Mexico for a cyclotron test?
Q. Did you know anything about cyclotron testing at the time you prepared the document?
Q. Did it concern you that it may be tested by cyclotron method?
Q. Why not?
A. Because I felt that the document would pass. Incidentally, I never heard. Did it or didn't it?
MR. BIGGS: Well, it depends on who you talk to. If you talk to Schiller and Wapner, it passed. But if you talk to the people who actually did the tests, they were not that positive about it.
MR. RICH: I'm sure when you called them they were backing up as far as they could.
A. Yes, I'm sure it it wasn't for the other suspicion, i.e. the bombings, etc., I believe it would have passed very well.
. . . . .
Q. Where did you get the paper for the second Oath, the one that was given to the Wilding group for collateral?
A. The book, the first paper for the first Oath came out of was a series of volumes so I had already identified where the paper could be had so it didn't take me long to drive down to Provo and pilfer a copy from the BYU Library from their old library.
. . . . .
A. ... I was going to say you asked me before on these documents what I consider the giveaways to be. There is, I believe, a couple giveaways, I believe on the printing which I haven't heard mentioned by the experts as far as characteristics which would establish it to be fraudulent. One of them is on the 5th and 6th lines of the document there is the word, subject, with the J in subject and underneath it, the word do. The J extends below the top of the letter D which could not happen in genuine type. I discovered that the day I first showed the document to Justin Schiller before I could do anything about it. And was in fact, on the airplane coming back. So it would have been like that night or the next day or something.
There are, I believe a couple others, or at least one other place where that same sort of thing happens where the typed letters seem to be going through each other, which is impossible in normal type. I see another one, in the first, in the parenthesis where it says in which free men are to deal. In the first parenthesis on the top part that parenthesis is higher than the bottom of the why in the word my.
In looking at old type and if someone else looked at old type they would be able to look at that characteristic and right there be able to say that it was made photographically rather than with a genuine type.
(Hofmann's Confession, pages 230-240, 246-247, 250-252, 254-255, 259-263, 265, 274-275, 280-281, 285-286)
One of Mark Hofmann's best forgeries was a letter that was supposed to have been written by Joseph Smith's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, in 1829. Mormon leaders rejoiced over the letter and it was hailed as a vindication of Joseph Smith's work. On August 24, 1982, Seventh East Press printed the following:
"The letter mentions Joseph Smith's being led to the location of the gold Book of Mormon plates by an angel. 'This pretty much knocks in the head the old evolution theory of Joseph's doctrinal development,' [Dean] Jessee said, alluding to the concept that Joseph Smith invented the stories of the First Vision, origin of the Book of Mormon, etc., later in his life in order to vindicate his prophetic calling. 'Here's Lucy, repeating the Moroni story in 1829, when the curtain of Church history was just going up. Obviously Joseph didn't think all this up later on.' "
In chapter 6 of Tracking, under Lucy Smith Letter, I demonstrated that the Lucy Smith letter had parallels to a genuine letter Mrs. Smith wrote to her brother on January 6, 1831. I suggested that Mark Hofmann or one of his friends obtained a copy of the 1831 letter and that it provided structural material for the 1829 letter. In his confession, Mark Hofmann admits that he did have access to the 1831 letter and used it to create the 1829 letter:
Q. ... Let's talk about the Lucy Mack Smith Letter. Can you tell us the origin of that? First of all, is that a forged document?
A. Yes, it is. That is the origin of it is that I forged it.
Q. Would you tell us where the idea came from and when?
A. I actually told Brent Ashworth that such a document was in existence even before I attempted to forge it or even research it. He expressed an interest in it and I eventually got around to making the forgery, which I believe was sold to him the day that it was complete...
. . . . .
Q. To come up with that historical information content, how did you do it?
A. I obtained a Xerox of a genuine Lucy Mack Smith Letter dated 1831 which is in the Church Archives.
Q. Let me give you a copy of that.
A. That was the source of some of the wording and also the handwriting of the document.
Q. Is that the letter you're referring to in 1831 to her brother and sister?
A. Yes, this is the one.
Q. So you used that for handwriting and for style?
Q. And what, word order?
A. Yes, that was all taken into account as I forged the text.
Q. Where did you obtain the paper?
A. It would have been from a book that I believe is on the 4th floor of the University of Utah library and on the east wall, yes that's right, towards the northeast comer of the building.
Q. Postmark on it, how did you create that?
A. It would have been from a plate that I would have created from a genuine folded cover.
Q. Do you remember where you got the genuine postmark from as your sample?
A. No, I obtained Palmyra oval postmarks from a number of sources.
Q. Was this a plate later destroyed by you?
A. Yes. I believe so. You haven't found it, have you?
Q. Do you know where you would have obtained your copy of the letter?
A. I would have obtained it from the Church, either with permission of Don Schmidt who sometimes let me have Xeroxes, or from another historian, but I know the original is in the possession of the Church.
(Hofmann's Confession, pages 333-335, 339-341)
In chapter 6 of Tracking, under 1873 Letters, I showed that Mark Hofmann forged letters by Book of Mormon witnesses David Whitmer and Martin Harris. The Harris letter appeared to be in the handwriting of his son, but the signature was supposed to have been penned by Harris himself. The letters were both addressed to a man by the name of Walter Conrad. In these letters Whitmer and Harris both reaffirmed their testimony to the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. The Martin Harris letter was considered exceptionally faith promoting because it was the only signed letter in which Harris told how the "Angel" revealed the Book of Mormon plates to him. I first began criticizing the 1873 Martin Harris letter in 1984 in The Money-Digging Letters. On page 19 of that booklet, I stated that the signature appeared too good for a man "who was just four months from his ninetieth birthday." In the Salt Lake City Messenger for January 1985, I noted that the 1873 Martin Harris letter and the Salamander letter appeared to be diametrically opposed to each other. I pointed out differences in both style and content which seemed to show they did not come from the same mind.
In chapter 6 of Tracking, under 1873 Letters, I showed that document expert William Flyn testified that the letter purported to have been written by David Whitmer had cracked ink and was not authentic. In his confession, Mark Hofmann revealed the following:
Q. Dave Whitmer to Walter Conrad. This was an 1982 document which Is that a forged document?
A. Yes, I forged it.
Q. What is the origin or idea behind this document?
A. Asking myself what a valuable document would be and concluding that one written by one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon concerning their witness to the Book of Mormon would be worth some money.
Q. The motive was money?
(Hofmann's Confession, pages 411-412)
On page 414, Mr. Hofmann was asked how he aged the ink. He responded: "Looking at it I would guess it was ammonia, just because the ink is more of a golden color, but it could be hydrogen peroxide." On the next page Hofmann said that although "President Hinkley agreed to pay $10,000.00" for the letter, he said that he would let it go "for $5,000.00." Former Mormon Archivist Donald Schmidt, on the other hand, testified that Mr. Hofmann received "a check for $10,000" for the David Whitmer letter.
In chapter 6 of Tracking, under 1873 Letters, I pointed out that it is unfortunate that "the Martin Harris letter to Conrad cannot be tested in the same way as the David Whitmer letter. According to the Church's press release, page 3, it 'was written in indelible pencil on lined paper.' There is, therefore, no way to determine when it was actually written. The forger would probably be smart enough not to use a modern pencil that might contain some 20th century ingredients." Since the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office had no hard evidence against the 1873 Martin Harris letter, Mark Hofmann was not charged with forging it. Consequently, Hofmann's attorney tried to prevent prosecutors from discussing it:
Q. Now again, we've kind of covered this point but I just want to ask you about that January 13, 1873 Martin Harris Letter.
MR. YENGICH: It's not charged.
Fortunately, Mark Hofmann had already "let the cat out of the bag" when discussing the David Whitmer letter. The reader will remember that both the Whitmer and the Harris letter were supposed to have been sent to the same man, "Walter Conrad." If one postulates that the Martin Harris letter is genuine, then Mr. Hofmann would have obtained the name "Conrad" for the David Whitmer letter from that letter. Hofmann, however, testified that he obtained the name "Conrad" through research:
A. ... The handwriting [for the David Whitmer letter] would have come from a Xerox that I had of a genuine letter. Walter Conrad, I believe that I looked that up in a Salt Lake City directory from 1873, probably.
Q. Who was he? Was he supposed to be somebody important?
A. No. Just nobody. I believe he was a clerk that worked for ZCMI at the time but somebody that may have written to the witnesses asking for their written testimonies. There were autograph collectors even back in those days.
Since Mark Hofmann obtained the name "Walter Conrad" from research, it is stretching one's credulity to believe that he would find a genuine Martin Harris letter addressed to the same Mr. Conrad. Hofmann's testimony, therefore, demonstrates that the Martin Harris letter is also a forgery. The reader will find additional evidence against the letter's authenticity and a discussion of possible sources in chapter 6 of Tracking, under 1873 Letters.
Mr. Hofmann was charged with forging another letter signed by David Whitmer and Peter Whitmer. The letter is supposed to be in the handwriting of Peter Whitmer and is addressed to Bithel Todd. The testimony Mark Hofmann gives concerning this document is very odd. It seems, in fact, that Hofmann is willing to concede that he may have traced the contents from another authentic letter written by somebody else. It is strange indeed that the "master forger" Hofmann would resort to tracing from another letter, especially since he claims that he doubts that any of Peter Whitmer's "handwriting is known." (Hofmann's Confession, page 319) Mr. Hofmann testified as follows:
A. I remember, I believe, having other folded letters addressed to Mr. Bithel Todd. It is possibly [sic] that I would have copied the text of a genuine document and substituted the names, Peter Whitmer, David Whitmer.
Q. Let me show you what was found in your car, because it's burned. Either in your car or in your house. As you can see it is an envelope with another envelope with the name Whitney Todd with a similar address as on the letter.
A. Yes, this is obviously the handwriting that I was duplicating.
Q. Do you know if you used that to trace, where one or the other was traced?
A. I don't believe so but do you have a ruler?
Q. I'm just asking if you can independently remember.
A. I can't remember tracing it. It appears that I did trace it which would have been something I rarely did and I don't remember doing in this case. But according to measurements it is probably what I did, that is traced the forged Peter Whitmer document from. Unfortunately the letter part of this is this here.
(Hofmann's Confession, pages 319, 321-322)
On pages 410-411, Mr. Hofmann testified: "...I believe that there's a good chance since I traced the address leaf, that I would have traced the other part of the document as far as the wording of the text, other than, of course, the Peter Whitmer, David Whitmer signatures which I added." One thing that document examiners always look for is evidence that handwriting has been traced from some other source. Why Mr. Hofmann would consider such a crude method is hard to understand. It reminds me of his use of a metal plate to print the Jack London inscription when all he had to do was write it out in the same way he created the other documents. Mr. Hofmann's testimony with regard to the Bithel Todd letter will undoubtedly be of interest to those who are looking for co-conspirators.
In chapter 5 of Tracking, under Forger on Vacation?, I discussed one of Hofmann's poorest forgeriesthe Betsy Ross letter: "The method in which the purported Betsy Ross letter was produced was even more bizarre. Instead of the letter being written out in a consistent style (as in the case of the Salamander letter), an old letter written by someone else with the first name Betsy was obtained. The last name was removed from the letter and the word Ross was inserted in its place. The date also had to be altered so that it would fit into the period in which Betsy Ross actually lived." In chapter 6 of the same book under Betsy Ross Letter, the forensic evidence against the Betsy Ross letter was presented. In view of the evidence, I could not help but wonder why a man who "had the ability to create" the Salamander letter, the Lucy Smith letter and the Grandin contract, would use such an "outlandish" method in producing the Betsy Ross letter. In his testimony, Mark Hofmann explained that he never actually intended to sell the letter:
Q. I'm showing you a document we found in your home. It alleged to be a letter written by Betsy Ross to Arebella Smith. Have you seen that before?
A. I have.
Q. Anything that you did to that letter?
Q. Tell me what.
A. I altered the date...
Q. How was that done?
A. Probably with both a chemical and a mechanical process as far as development. It's hard for me say exactly how it was done without ultraviolet light. The Ross word of the name Betsy was also added to the letter. Both of them were done very crudely as far as I had no anticipation of offering or selling this as a genuine Betsy Ross letter. But it was basically done to satisfy the investors, namely Shannon Flynn and Wilford Carden.
Q. Where did you get the letter to begin with?
A. It was a folded letter I would have obtained from a dealer, I can't remember for certain who.
Q. Is it an authentic document except for the changes which you have mentioned?
A. Except for those changes, it is.
. . . . .
Q. Was there a last name other than Ross after Betsy which you eradicated to put Ross there?
A. I believe I did but I can't say for certain, although I could with the right equipment.
Q. And you don't know for sure where you got the letter?
A. I'll make a statement as far as eradicating ink for your experts.
A. The best way to eradicate ink is chemically, not by using acid or some sort of oxidizer to eliminate it, but to actually wash it chemically from the paper rather than changing it chemically.
Q. How is that done?
A. The way that I probably did it on this was ultrasonically and probably with some sort of mild soap solution. I had, although it wasn't confiscated, in my office, a small ultrasonic cleaner that I had previously used to clean coins which also I used to sometimes eradicate ink.
. . . . .
MR. BIGGS: Turn it over, if you would. Any changes on the outside?
A. On the address leaf?
Q. That's correct?
A. Not that I remember. I don't remember doing anything at all. Like I say, my only attempt was to date it around the time of her life and to add a name. It was a simple thing, and then to make the ink appear to be the same ink as the text of the letter, but it wasn't intended to fool any experts or anything.
(Hofmann's Confession, pages 509-512)
In chapter 6 of Tracking, under The Dunham Letter, I presented the evidence against the letter of Joseph Smith to Jonathan Dunham. In his confession, page 387, Hofmann frankly admitted, "Of course, I forged it." In the same chapter of Tracking, I mentioned that there were a number of books that could have inspired this forgery. One of books I referred to was T. B. H. Stenhouse's book The Rocky Mountain Saints. When Mr. Hofmann was asked where he got the information about the possible existence of a letter from Joseph Smith to Jonathan Dunham, he replied: "...I believe that there is a book by Steinhouse which mentions it which was footnoted in a book by Dawn [Donna] Hill entitled Joseph Smith, the First Mormon. As I remember Dawn Hill is the first source that I remember for that rumor and I believe she footnotes Steinhouse's book and I believe that there were also some journal references I saw at the Church Historian's Office to that same effect." (page 390)
Mr. Hofmann goes on to state that the Dunham letter was a hasty production which was not completed until after he received the money:
A. Yes. First let me say this is a very poor forgery and it was quickly done. It was done because I was pressed for funds and knew that I could get them immediately and I succeeded in doing that.
Q. When you say poor, why is it a poor forgery in you estimation?
A. I could show you a lot of bad things about it. It is not up to the quality of some of my better attempts, if I can say that humbly.
Q. You're talking about the handwriting, or what?
A. Yes. The handwriting is poor, the ink is certainly poor. I didn't make any attempts, as I would have done with more time, to imitate the ink that I saw Willard Richards use in the jail. Any expert will look at it and tell you it is a crappy job. Let me choose a better word.
Q. That describes it.
Q. Who was it to be sold to?
A. It was sold, actually before being complete, to Dick Marks in Arizona who, I think who wired the money to my account actually before I had completed forging the document, and I soon thereafter sat down and wrote it out and sent it to him.
Q. So the document was specifically created for him?
Q. How much did you sell it for?
A. I was desperate for money and so not as much as it is certainly worth. I can't remember exactly. It seems like five or 10 thousand or something.
MR. BIGGS: Does 20 thousand sound about right?
A. Was it 20 thousand? Yes, $20.000, I believe it was.
(Hofmann's Confession, pages 393-395)
In chapter 6 of Tracking, under The Dunham Letter, I made this statement concerning the Dunham letter: "This is a document that seems to have been created specifically to fill a request that Brent Ashworth made of Mark Hofmann." Mr. Hofmann testified that he had "previously" mentioned the letter to Ashworth but said: "I don't believe that he brought up the subject or discussed it initially." (Hofmann's Confession, page 388) He admitted, however, that he had made the Whitmer letter specifically for Brent Ashworth: "The idea was spurred, as I remember, by an interest which Brent Ashworth had in acquiring a Whitmer document. Which I basically manufactured to order." (page 317) With regard to the Dunham letter, in his testimony at Hofmann's preliminary hearing, Brent Ashworth claimed that he told Mark Hofmann that he was extremely interested in obtaining a letter by Joseph Smith from Carthage jail and that "three to four months thereafter, Mark indicated to me that he had located a Carthage jail letter;..." Mr. Ashworth claimed that Hofmann told him that he "would have a first option to purchase that letter..." Ashworth wanted the letter so badly that he would have been willing to pay up to $30,000 for it. Mark Hofmann, however, sold it to Dr. Richard Marks for $20,000. Ashworth soon became aware of the fact that Hofmann had sold the letter out from under him and became extremely upset. He was so angry that he "drove straight to Mark's house" at night. He thought that he must "have got Mark out of bed or at least he was dressed in his pajamas with a robe on... I was extremely angry,... I said 'You lied to me.' " The story becomes even more bizarre as it goes on. Ashworth claimed that in April of 1985 he was "still hot" over the fact that Mark Hofmann had broken his agreement with him. At that point Hofmann may have realized that if he wanted to continue victimizing Brent Ashworth with his forgeries, he would have to do something to rectify the matter. Mr. Ashworth testified that Hofmann finally called him and said that the letter was available to him again, but this time the price would be $60,000! Ashworth told Hofmann that he was not interested at that price and the conversation was terminated.
Mr. Ashworth's obsession to obtain the letter finally got the best of him: "I loved that letter so much that I got over my pride for a moment or two and decided that I better try and go after it." On July 29, 1985, Mark Hofmann finally turned the letter over to Brent Ashworth for $60,000. What Mr. Hofmann did not tell Ashworth was the price he had to pay to get the letter back. Hofmann had prearranged for the Mormon Church's bookstore, Deseret Book, to obtain the letter for him. Curt Bench, of Deseret Book, testified that he bought the letter back from Richard Marks for "$90,000" and resold it to Hofmann for "$110,000 plus tax. It came to $116,000 plus." Just why Mark Hofmann would take such a loss to get back in favor with Brent Ashworth is not known. Prosecutors were puzzled about the matter because it occurred at a time when Hofmann really needed the money:
Q. Why did you go to the trouble of getting Deseret Book to get it back so you could sell it to Brent? Was it money that you wanted or some other reason?
A. No, it would have been because Ashworth wanted it and I felt like he should have it.
. . . . .
Q. The price really went up?
A. Yes, the price paid to Marks went up and to Deseret Book went up but it dropped dramatically when Ashworth purchased it.
Q. How much did you pay Deseret Book?
A. I believe it was $100,000.
Q. Do you remember paying them the full amount?
A. Yes, I believe I gave them a cashiers check for that amount plus tax.
. . . . .
Q. And so you bought it for 100 thousand?
Q. And turned around and sold it to Brent for what?
A. Let's see, it was partially a trade for documents which he overvalued, incidentally, in the preliminary hearing...
Q. There where [were?] three letters to Joseph Smith and one to Brigham Young, about $18,000?
A. Yes, I believe that was right.
. . . . .
Q. Weren't you in a pretty frenzied state at this time?
Q. Weren't you pretty desperate for money?
Q. Why in the world would you sell it to him, after you paid $100,000, did you sell it to him for $18,000 plus trade?
A. For the basic reason that the deal had already been struck and I had never backed out of a deal.
Q. But you were hard up for money.
A. I know. I was desperate as can be.
MR. BIGGS: People were saying like you may go to jail if you don't get some money and you paid Deseret Book $116,000 and sold it for documents and 18?
A. I gave Deseret Book Company the check, as I remember, the day that I received the money from the Wilding transaction. Then the next day is when I was threatened with going to jail but it was too late. I had given them the money and couldn't get it back.
Q. But Christensen had done that previously when you couldn't come up with the money for the bank. Hadn't you already written a bogus check for $188,000 to First Interstate Bank by September of '85?
. . . . .
Q. You have owed, at this time, September '85, you owe hundreds of thousands of dollars to several people?
Q. And you're telling us that since you made a deal with Brent Ashworth to get him this forged General Dunham Letter that you went ahead and paid Deseret Book $116,000 and only got back three documents and $18,000. Just because you had made the deal with Ashworth you felt duty bound to go through with it?
A. As unreasonable is [as?] it sounds, it is the
MR. STOTT: It does.
MR. BIGGS: You just defrauded people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars; Wilding, Pinock, First Interstate Bank, Rust. We could go on forever. And you're telling us the only reason you lost approximately $80,000 was because you where [were?] duty bound to give them that document?
A. What other explanation is there?
Q. You tell me.
A. There isn't because that was the reason. Like I say, or like I had said, the money was paid to Deseret Book the day before I was threatened with fraud on the Wilding transaction. I anticipated money coming from the Oath.
(Hofmann's Confession, pages 400-403, 405-406)
That Mark Hofmann would be willing to sustain such a large loss at that critical time just to keep his word to Ashment does seem very difficult to believe. In Appendix C of Tracking, evidence is presented concerning another strange deal that Mark Hofmann was negotiating with Brent Ashworth. Ashworth claimed that Mr. Hofmann originally sold him the Lucy Mack Smith letter for trade items valued "at around $33,000." Hofmann later told Ashworth that he was "representing an out of State buyer" who was willing to pay "a quarter of a million dollars" for the letter. Still later Hofmann called again and presented an offer of almost half a million dollars for eight items from Ashworth's collection. Why Mark Hofmann would offer to buy back the forgeries for such an unbelievable price is only a matter of speculation. Since the transaction never went through, it could be possible that Hofmann was only trying to set Ashworth up for an even bigger deal. We may never know what was going on in Mr. Hofmann's mind when he planned these strange deals with Brent Ashworth. The reader will remember that in the prosecutors' summary of their early interviews with Mark Hofmann, they claim that he told them, "he thought about killing... Brent Ashworth..." (Hofmann's Confession, page SS-3)
One of the charges against Mark Hofmann was for counterfeiting a type of early Mormon currency known as "gold notes" or "white notes." In chapter 6 of Tracking, under Mormon Money, I pointed out that the Mormon Church allowed Mark Hofmann access to a manuscript entitled, "Brigham Young's Daily Transactions in Gold Dust." From this manuscript, Mr. Hofmann compiled some important information concerning the "white notes." Harry F. Campbell utilized Mr. Hofmann's work in his book, Campbells Tokens of Utah. On page 312 of this book, Mr. Campbell stated: "The above information, 'Mormon Currency Table' was prepared by Mark W. Hofmann and is shown courtesy of the L.D.S. Church." After it became apparent that some white notes which Mark Hofmann sold were questionable, Jerry Urban pointed out to me that the "Mormon Currency Table" prepared by Hofmann could have been used in a counterfeiting operation. In his confession, pages 324-25, Mark Hofmann freely admitted that the manuscript the Mormon Church allowed him to use played an important role in the forgeries:
A. The primary source of the research was a ledger book possessed by the LDS Church Archives. I believe it is entitled Brigham Young's Daily Transactions in Gold Duties [sic]. That book lists the serial numbers of the hand denominations of the issued notes. There is also some reference as far as the numbers being crossed out as to when or which notes, which serial numbers would have been redeemed. The unredeemed serial numbers are the ones I adopted in making the forgeries. In other words, my forged notes have the same serial numbers as the unredeemed notes in that ledger book.
HUNDREDS OF FORGERIES
It is claimed that thousands of manuscripts and books passed through Mark Hofmann's hands and that hundreds of them could have been forged or falsified in some way. Although prosecutors believed that Mr. Hofmann committed a large number of forgeries, they felt that charging him with making the bombs, the murders "and 26 other counts" was sufficient to place him behind bars for many years. In the plea bargain arrangement Mr. Hofmann agreed to only talk of the crimes he was actually charged with committing. His lawyers, therefore, tried to prevent prosecutors from delving into some of the other forgeries. When Hofmann was asked about the letter of Joseph Smith to his polygamous wives, Maria and Sarah Lawrence (see chapter 6 of Tracking, under Lawrence Letter) he replied: "That's not one of the charges so what do you want me to say?" (Hofmann's Confession, page 111) While Mark Hofmann was unwilling to talk about some of the forgeries, he freely provided information on others. For instance, in chapter 6 of Tracking, under Documents on Money-Digging, the reader will find information concerning a letter Joseph Smith was supposed to have written to his brother, Hyrum. It contained a revelation instructing Hyrum to come to Far West so that Joseph could show him how he could "obtain a grate treasure in the earth even so Amen." When Mr. Hofmann was asked concerning incriminating evidence that detectives had overlooked in his house, he responded:
A. There was a negative/ It was a negative that I used to print a postmark from Far West. The negative I used to make the plate to print the postmark.
Q. On the Joseph Smith to Hyrum Smith letter, saying Hyrum, come out to Far West and you will find riches and that type of thing?
A. That happens to be the exact one.
Q. Anything else that you destroyed that night?
A. Yes. (Hofmann's Confession, page 214)
Unfortunately, prosecutors took a break at this point and when questioning resumed they neglected to ask Mark Hofmann the other item(s) he "destroyed." In any case, Mr. Hofmann's statements made it very clear that the Far West letter was a fake. Hofmann's comments might raise questions with regard to Richard L. Anderson's statement that "every letter in the disputed 25 May 1838 postmark has characteristics of a freehand sketch." (BYU Studies, vol. 24, no. 4, p. 509) Although he does not actually say it, Hofmann's statement might give the impression that he used a genuine postmark on a letter to make the negative. A reconciliation of the two statements might be that since Far West postmarks are very rare, that Hofmann had to use a poor Xerox copy and tried to fill in the shape of the letters with a pen. With regard to the "Oath of a Freeman," Hofmann did testify that he worked from a "Xerox" copy for the type and "used a technical pen" to make "deformations" in the type to "mislead the experts who would examine it." (Hofmann's Confession, page 253) It is even possible that Mr. Hofmann did draw the entire Far West postmark and then reduced it when the negative was made. This, of course, would help to hide any imperfections in his work.
Although he was not charged with regard to the matter, in his confession, pages 505-507, Mark Hofmann admitted he had falsified some magic amulets in an attempt to link the Anthon transcript to magic:
MR. STOTT: You wrote a letter here to Dr. Lambert, 15 January of '81 in which you talk about some amulets or one amulet, I'm not sure, and in fact, I guess that is a picture of the one that you gave to Brent Metcalf and wasn't there something else you gave to Lynn Jacobs?
A. I believe I gave Lynn Jacobs a silver Masonic-type amulet or token.
Q. And also Brent Metcalf?
Q. Where did you come up with those amulets and what do they signify, if anything?
A. I became interested in collecting them at one time. I was a member of a token and metal society. It's somewhat related to coin collecting. I guess. I ran a few ads in a publication, or whatever, and wrote several dealers that, I shouldn't say several, a few dealers, who sold such things and at one time had perhaps two dozen or so magical tokens or amulets.
Q. Do you remember, is that something you received from someone else, the amulet itself?
A. It's not charged.
MR. STOTT: I'm not looking at it as a forged item.
MR. YENGICH: You're talking been [sic] the amulet?
MR. STOTT: Yes, which supposedly has some characters that are
A. I'll talk about it. It was indeed a forgery.
MR. STOTT: And it is
A. That I made.
Q. And the purpose of the forgery?
MR. YENGICH: Mark, lets talk outside for a second.
DISCUSSION HELD OFF THE RECORD
MR. STOTT: What I'm getting at, Mark, I think there was some connection between the writing on the amulet and maybe the writing on the Anthon Transcript.
A. That is correct.
Q. Can you tell us what you did and what it was supposed to be?
A. It is various characters from the Anthon Transcript or at least similar to the Anthon Transcript, which I put on the amulet, on one side of it. The other side is a abracadabra triangle.
Q. Did you represent to people these characters are similar to the Book of Mormon or Anthon Transcript characters?
A. Yes. As I did with a few other tokens which I had in my possession.
Q. What was the purpose of putting the abracadabra on one side and the Anthon Transcript characters on the other side?
A. Nothing in particular.
Q. Did it show some connection?
A. The abracadabra triangle which showed it was magic related.
With regard to the magic amulets, it is interesting to note that Mark Hofmann had shown one of them to Sandra and allowed her to make a tracing by laying a sheet of paper over the amulet and rubbing a pencil back and forth. She had completely forgotten about the incident until the tracing was found in some material we had saved. Linda Sillitoe, who is co-authoring a book on Mark Hofmann with Allen Roberts, asked to see some material we had and while examining it found the tracing together with another sheet on which Mark Hofmann had printed his name and address. From the two pages, it appears that Mr. Hofmann had come to our store on August 20, 1980, and paid for five copies of the booklet, Book of Mormon "Caractors" Found. The publication of the book was delayed, however, and on November 5, 1980, we sent Hofmann a letter telling him that it would be awhile before the book would be available. Finally, on January 14, 1981, Mr. Hofmann came to the store to pick up the copies and allowed Sandra to make the tracing of the magic amulet. Below is a photograph of Sandra's tracing:
(click to enlarge)
For some reason we did not seem to comprehend the significance of the tracing of the amulet and it remained buried in our files until Linda Sillitoe found it. Sandra, however, did remember that Mr. Hofmann had allowed her to trace it.
Although I do not know of any evidence that Mark Hofmann was trying to link Mormonism to magic at the time he created the Anthon transcript, Sandra's tracing of the magic amulet shows that within eight months of the "discovery," he was trying to promote this idea.
In Tracking, under "Attempted Blackmail" and Spalding Document and 116 Missing Pages, evidence is presented which shows that Mark Hofmann produced a blackmail-type document which contained the signatures of both Solomon Spalding and Sidney Rigdon. Since some Mormon critics believe that Rigdon used a manuscript of a novel written by Spalding to create the Book of Mormon, any document having both these signatures on it would cast doubt on the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. According to Hugh Pinnock, a General Authority in the Mormon Church, Mark Hofmann showed him this forgery and claimed that it was part of the McLellin collection.
I had heard rumors that Mark Hofmann not only tried to alarm Mormon leaders with evidence supporting the Spalding-Rigdon theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon but that he was also trying to link the Book of Mormon to a book by Ethan Smith entitled, View of the Hebrews. Mormon historian B. H. Roberts became so disturbed with the parallels between View of Hebrews and the Book of Mormon that he wrote a secret report concerning it (see Mormonism Shadow or Reality? pages 96-D to 96-G). B. H. Roberts felt that it was very possible that Joseph Smith had access to a copy of View of the Hebrews. If it could be shown that Smith or one of the Book of Mormon witnesses had a copy of this book before the Book of Mormon was produced, it would certainly help support the argument that Ethan Smith's book provided structural material for the Book of Mormon. It now appears that Hofmann did, in fact, create some "evidence" to support that theory by putting a Martin Harris inscription in a copy of View of the Hebrews. The inscription read: "Martin Harris Palmyra County of Wayne." It is interesting to note that the Mormon scholar Dean Jessee used this inscription in an article he wrote for BYU Studies, vol. 24, no. 4, page 428. Although the inscription is photographically reproduced, the title of the book is not shown. This caption appears below the photograph: "Purported Martin Harris writing from unidentified book. Copy in possession of author." I felt that it was strange that the title of the book was not available. Fortunately, Mark Hofmann answers the question in his confession, pages 497-499:
Q. During this time there was, maybe I should call it a rumor, I don't know what else to call it, that there was a Palmyra County inscription and in fact, that inscription appears in BYU Studies. Isn't it one that Dean Jesse obtained through you?
A. Oh, yes. I believe we talked about that before. That was an inscription in a book, yes.
Q. And that was, is that another one that was developed during this time by yourself in relationship to the Salamander Letter or in that whole process?
A. That inscription, I believe Dean Jesse acquired from Lynn Jacobs who acquired it from me.
Q. And that inscription again was one of your creations, is that correct?
A. Am I supposed to be answering these?
MR. YENGICH: Well, the other documents we are not going to talk about. We'll make a note of it and we'll go back to that because they are not on the count?
A. Although I already answered that question in an earlier interview.
MR. YENGICH: Did you answer it in an interview when Brad was here?
MR. YENGICH: Then answer it.
MR. STOTT: I'm trying to see the relationship to the Salamander Letter.
A. Yes, that's a forged inscription.
. . . . .
Q. And I think you also mentioned there was something about a Martin Harris signature in A View of Hebrew?
A. Yes, that was the same book that Dean Jesse got his Palmyra inscription from.
Q. Was that a real book or?
A. It was a real book.
Q. Again that was one of your creations?
A. The signature was, that's correct or inscription was.
Unfortunately, the transcript does not reveal who has possession of this book at the present time.
In chapter 6 of Tracking, under Spalding Document and 116 Missing Pages, I gave some interesting information concerning the possibility that Mark Hofmann was building up to a forgery of the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon also known as the book of Lehi. I noted that "the missing 116 pages of the book of Lehi would be worth millions of dollars." Unfortunately, prosecutors never asked Mr. Hofmann anything concerning this matter and Hofmann did not volunteer any information. One interesting item concerning the 116 pages did appear in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, March 29,1987, page 11:
"One of the greatest intrigues in Mormon history involves a set of papers known as the 116 Lost Pages of the Book of Mormon. Early in the process of writing the book, a disciple [Martin Harris] carried the pages to his home in another town. The pages soon disappeared and have never resurfaced. Hofmann said he thought the 116 pages were out there, somewhere; he was investigating some leads. At one dinner party he told a friend that the church had offered him $2 million for the Lost Pages. He said he thought the offer was low. He would ask $10 million."
Brent Metcalfe also claims that Mark Hofmann said the Mormon Church had offered $2 to $3 million dollars for the missing pages, but Hofmann felt they were worth $10 million.
In chapter 7 Tracking, under Insight on Hofmann, I explained the early Mormon doctrine of "blood atonement" i.e., the doctrine that it might be necessary to kill a man to save his soul if he had committed certain sins. I then made this observation: "If Mark Hofmann is indeed guilty of murder, I doubt very much that he did it because he believed in the "blood atonement" doctrine i.e., believed he was saving the souls of Christensen or Sheets by shedding their blood. On the other hand, the knowledge that the early leaders of his Church (whom he had been taught to revere from his youth) taught such an outlandish doctrine could have affected his thinking with regard to murder."
Mark Hofmann's confession, pages 393 and 395, makes it clear that he was familiar with the doctrine of "blood atonement":
A. It seems like Dunham, as I remember, went on an expedition from Winter Quarters a couple years after this and never returned. And it seems like there's a rumor that I heard that he may have been blood atoned for not following the advice of this letter. In other words, there are rumors that some people in the Church believe that he had received such a letter and had failed to act on it/
. . . . .
A. ...I heard rumors, I believe from a journal source, may have been Huntington's journal, that he suspected Dunham of not following through on an order, on this order. I believe that was the same source which suggested the possibility that Dunham had possibly been put under, a favorite Mormon phrase, for not fulfilling the order or at least it is a favorite, blood atonement phrase.
Mark Hofmann's father apparently had a very strong belief that a murderer could only receive forgiveness through "blood atonement." On January 24, 1987, the New York Times printed some strange information concerning the Hofmann case:
"SALT LAKE CITY, Jan. 23 Spurning his father's appeal that he submit to execution to atone for two 1985 murders, a former Mormon missionary chose instead today to plead guilty to the crimes in return for a sentence of life imprisonment.... According to family members, the plea arrangement that spared his life was delayed in recent weeks by the intervention of his father, a Mormon, and other family members who said they believed that if the younger Mr. Hofmann was guilty of the murders he should be executed.
"This belief is rooted in the Mormon doctrine of 'blood atonement,' which holds that some crimes are so grievous that the crucifixion of Jesus had not redeemed their sins. The crimes that fall under the doctrine, promulgated principally by Brigham Young .... include murder and adultery....
"In the end, church experts said, Mr. Hofmann's father accepted the idea that his son would not have to be executed. In an effort at atonement, Mr. Hofmann, through his attorney, apologized to members of his victims' families at a meeting Thursday."
In Appendix A of Tracking, I quoted an article written about Elwyn Doubleday which stated that the FBI told him that "Mark Hofmann in disguise, and... his friend, Shannon Flynn" came back east and visited with him. Although Hofmann's confession does not go into the matter, Mr. Doubleday informed me that the FBI later decided that it was actually two men from a law firm in Idaho. The fact that the name "Hansen" was given probably led investigators to believe that it was Hofmann posing under his alias of "Mike Hansen."
A careful examination of Mark Hofmann's confession reveals that he has a very good mind and is very familiar with the chemical processes and techniques required to forge documents. It seems apparent also that if he had not committed the murders, he may never have been caught. The murders, of course, led to a very careful examination of his documents. I feel that the evidence of forgery that investigators found against him after the bombings probably would have been sufficient to convict him of a number of the forgeries. Nevertheless, Mr. Hofmann had some very good lawyers, and that, combined with his brilliant mind, would have made it very difficult for prosecutors. For example, in studying the documents forensic experts found that only Hofmann's documents had a one-directional running of the ink. This flaw was not visible to the natural eye but was made visible by ultraviolet light. William Flyn described it this way: "On several of the documents.... some constituent part of the ink... ran from the characters. In most instances, it ran in a unidirectional way. That is to say, it appeared that the document had been held vertically and wet so that the running was down, in one direction. It was not even haloing, where the running extended outward evenly in all directions, but rather it was more like a one-directional running." (Tracking, Documents Flaky) Document experts felt that this showed that some type of chemical solution had been used to age the ink. On page 164 of his confession, Mark Hofmann tells how he would have tried to counter the argument of one-directional running of the ink: "Although the unidirectional running is more suspicious. I guess the only explanation as far as, if you want to know what I would have tried to persuade Ron [his lawyer], perhaps to say in trial to counteract that would be some other documents I know of that have that characteristic which are known to be genuine, which had been in a flood or some such thing, which, in preparation for trial we examined under ultraviolet light and found the unidirectional running type thing." Mr. Hofmann then goes on to make this revealing comment: "Of course, we couldn't have disclosed in trial they would have been in a flood/"
While I doubt that Mark Hofmann's devious mind could have saved him from prison, the prosecutors probably would have had a very difficult time making all the counts stick. It is obvious also that even if Mr. Hofmann had been convicted on many counts, his fertile imagination would have brought forth theories that would have given new life to the documents in the minds of many people. While there is certainly a question in many people's minds as to whether justice was best served by plea bargaining with a murder, as far as the documents are concerned, we are probably in a far better position than if the case had actually gone to trial.
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