By Teresa Ambord
Back in March when Chris Zorich, former defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins, faced a Chicago judge to answer for his tax failings, he took it like a man. In the long run, this attitude might have bought him some mercy. He was charged with four counts of failure to file tax returns and pay taxes on more than a million dollars of income, including rental income received by his charity, the Chris Zorich Foundation. He also failed to file tax returns for the foundation.
To his credit, Zorich did not blame the accountant, society, or his mama. When the judge asked how he would plead, he simply said, "Guilty, your honor."
As part of a plea agreement in March, Zorich must pay $71,000 in back taxes and was ordered to return to court for sentencing in July. He was looking at a possible $100,000 fine and a maximum sentence of a year in prison for each of the four counts against him. At that time, his attorneys asked for probation in lieu of prison.
When Zorich returned to court in July, he made a brief statement before learning his sentence.
''I'm obviously very sorry about my actions and I take full responsibility for them.''
Earlier, government attorney William Hogan Jr. asked for a sentence within federal guidelines. ''He neglected his responsibility. . . . This wasn't just an oversight."
In an unusual move, US Magistrate Judge Daniel Martin began the sentencing by saying, though Zorich's crimes were serious, they were an "aberration."
''You have led an otherwise exemplary life, Mr. Zorich,'' Martin said. ''You've been a compassionate, generous, and caring member of our society.''
The bottom line? Zorich escaped prison and was sentenced instead to three years probation.
Sometimes it pays to be humble.