A life sentence for tax evasion: Elevating tax cheating to a "sacred cause"
by AccountingWEB on
It's one thing to hate income tax. It's another thing to express yourself with a cache of homemade bombs, assault rifles, and deadly booby-traps. Plainfield, New Hampshire resident Ed Brown and his wife Elaine stopped paying income taxes in 1996 and stopped filing returns in 1998 as part of their tax protest. New Hampshire's Concord Monitor said the couple "tried to elevate tax cheating to a sacred cause." In 2007 they were each sentenced to five years in prison, which they did not serve. Looking back on that decision, five years probably seems like a cake walk. Last week Ed Brown, age 67 was sentenced to 37 years in prison… a virtual life sentence. In October 2009, his wife was sentenced to 35 years.
How did five years become more than three decades? When the Browns were sentenced for tax evasion in 2007, they barricaded themselves in their home, with enough food, ammo, and weapons to last 18 months. Then they began a nine-month armed standoff with federal authorities.
Documents from the federal district court say the Browns' home was surrounded by concrete walls and defended by homemade bombs, semi-automatic, assault-type rifles, 60,000 rounds of ammunition, and explosive devices wrapped in shrapnel. During the trial, Brown said that the weapons were for self-defense and defense of their property, not for the purpose of harming the feds. But the press reported that during the standoff, he gave a radio interview in which he said that if the federal authorities showed up, 'Tthe chief of police in this town, the sheriff, the sheriff himself will die. This is war now, folks.'' He also told the court that he'd had the opportunity to kill the authorities but chose not to do so.
Brown is known as a hero to the tax protestor movement, and the spokesman for the Constitution Defense Militia. They believe the federal government has no constitutional right to demand the payment of income taxes. At least four of Brown's supporters have already gone to prison for helping the Browns evade arrest since their conviction in 2007.
Defense attorney, Mike Iacopino argued that his client suffers from a delusional disorder, and requested the court to consider a sentence of 30 years, which is the mandatory minimum. He reminded the court no one was harmed in the armed standoff, and noted that 30 years is effectively a life sentence for a man Brown's age. Prosecutors were asking for 50 years. In spite of the attorney's efforts, Brown denounced Iacopino, telling the court that his attorney did not represent him.
During the trial Brown frequently disrupted the proceedings with outbursts such as "Objection!" He was allowed to address the court for an uninterrupted 45 minutes, during which he ranted about the Freemasons, the Illuminati, the press, and other issues. He said, "We haven't hurt a soul," and asked to be allowed to see the federal tax law. After his speech he asked to leave the court and was not present when the sentence was read.
Presiding over the court was U.S. District Judge George Singal. In spite of the defense attorney's assertion that Brown was delusional, Singal said he found Brown competent and unrepentant. A forensic psychologist offered the opinion that Brown has a narcissistic personality disorder, is characterized by grandiosity, a need for attention, and a lack of empathy. Judge Singal likened Brown to a young child in need of a time-out. According to Associated Press reporters, Singal said Brown confuses the right that Americans have to promote their own views "with his decision that everyone agree with him." The Judge also said that, in another country, Brown most likely would've been executed on the spot for his actions. He likened Brown to a young child badly in need of a time-out. Then Judge Singal handed down a sentence of 37 years.
U.S. Attorney John Kacavas told the press, "We believe it sends a strong message to others, who can think what they want, but they can't act on those thoughts if they pose a danger to the public."