Donations to help defendant in gun trial stuck at giving website

2022-03-26 04:07:20 By : Ms. Nancy Huang

A YouTube-posting gun dealer charged with helping an Orange Park man distribute illegal machine-gun conversion equipment landed support from about 3,000 people who donated $116,000 to an online fundraiser for him.

But the money to help Matthew Hoover apparently hasn’t left the fundraising website because of a knot of confusion over how the cash can actually be released.  

“We’re trying to figure it out,” said Zachary Zermay, one of two defense attorneys representing Hoover on conspiracy and firearms charges in Jacksonville’s federal court. “It’s been a little bit difficult working with GoFundMe.”

Zermay declined to talk in detail about the funds but said he was hopeful the holdup would be resolved.

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Frustration has led Hoover’s advocates to encourage giving through a different site,, where by Thursday a separate donation effort for Hoover had a balance topping $37,000.

A GoFundMe spokeswoman said the company wasn’t commenting until employees finished working through details about the fundraising effort.

Hoover, who operated a YouTube channel with more than 130,000 subscribers where he posted videos on gun-related topics, was indicted in January along with Clay County resident Kristopher “Justin” Ervin, who had been charged last year with selling unregistered machine guns for marketing credit card-sized metal strips under the product name Auto Key Card.

The metal pieces, some priced from $89 to $139, were etched with a pattern that prosecutors said a customer could follow with a cutting device to produce an item that could convert an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle to create a fully automatic firearm — without the regulation and expense of machine guns that can sell at auction for $15,000.

Hoover, who lives in Wisconsin, mentioned Auto Key Card in some videos and described as a sponsor, and the January indictment charged him with conspiring with Ervin to increase the Florida man’s distribution.

The indictment included six counts where both men were accused of illegally transferring machine gun conversion devices based on Auto Key Card customers saying they had become aware of Ervin’s products by watching Hoover’s YouTube channel.

The charges alarmed gun enthusiasts, some of whom donated to help Hoover because they saw the case as threatening rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s First and Second Amendments.

But GoFundMe effectively froze the aid account as it reviewed various unspecified questions.

On March 18, Hoover’s wife, Erica, posted a YouTube video that appeared to show a GoFundMe email saying the account was blocked from receiving more donations while the review played out.

A message posted to the account’s webpage 10 days earlier said GoFundMe wasn’t releasing the money, and the site said this week that new donations had been disabled by the organizer.

The video voiced frustration over both the charges Hoover faces and being cut off from offered aid.

“He’s fighting for all of us. This country, you know, shouldn’t be like this. It’s sad, scary,” Erica Hoover said.

John Crump, a friend of Hoover who writes about and advocates on gun issues, said by email Thursday that GoFundMe “still has the funds and says they will only send it to a trust set up by his attorney. …  GoFundMe wants legal documentation that it will not be used for anything but legal bills.”

But Crump added that the account “was also intended to buy food for his kids since he can't make YouTube videos and it is impossible to get a job while under federal indictment.”

During a hearing this week, Zermay and co-counsel Matthew Larosiere told U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard they were preparing for trial but had to analyze about 20,000 pages of documentation from Ervin’s original case and another 6,000 pages involving charges from the January indictment.

Howard pushed back on a defense suggestion to hold the trial early next year, instead penciling it in for July and setting a June hearing to revisit preparations.