Couple Claims Government Agents Tried to Influence Jury

The possibility that Internal Revenue Service agents and Justice Department lawyers "glared" at jurors during a recent trial will be the subject of a federal appeals court hearing, the New York Times reported.

A Nevada couple, on trial for tax evasion, claims the federal officers attempted to intimidate the jurors into reaching their guilty verdict. The hearing could result in the overturning of the tax evasion convictions of Martin Rutherford, a Reno chiropractor, and his wife, Nanja. Pending appeal, their sentences of five months in prison each and payment of $141,813 in restitution for taxes owed in 1992 and 1993 have been stayed, the Times reported.

"Nine to 15 IRS agents and Justice Department people sat in on our trial, which lasted 19 days, and then under oath some of them initially denied they had been there," Martin Rutherford said. "Then they changed their story a bit to say they were there for training."

Rutherford claims that he and his wife are the victims of a phony lawyer whose tax advice landed them in hot water with the IRS. When they hired a proper attorney, the IRS seized even more money from the couple than they owed in taxes.

The Rutherfords asked U.S. District Court Judge Edward Reed to set aside the verdict due to what they saw as intimidating behavior on the part of federal agents present during the trial. Some of the agents claim they were there for training purposes.

The jury foreman and two other jurors submitted affidavits in which they said jurors discussed the prospect of retaliation by the IRS if they acquitted the Rutherfords, the Times reported.

Reed, after the hearing, concluded that the IRS and Justice Department agents did not intend to influence the jury. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that finding Friday and said the wrong legal standard was applied.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that the issue in question is not the intent of the government agents, but whether the jurors had reason to believe they were being tampered with, the Times reported. The appeals court did not find the jury had been influenced and ordered a hearing into the matter.

The appeals court directed Reed to reinstate or vacate the convictions based on whether he finds that the government influenced the jury's verdict, even unintentionally, the Times reported.

You may like these other stories...

Some of your clients may get away to business conventions from time to time. It gives them a chance to rub shoulders with colleagues, catch up on the latest developments, and fine-tune their skills. And, when the meetings or...
PwC must face $1 billion lawsuit over MF Global adviceA federal judge on Wednesday ordered PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to face a $1 billion lawsuit claiming that its bad accounting advice was a substantial cause of the...
Being an accountant doesn't mean you're giving investment advice to clients. However, at tax time, accountants often have to deal with the results of any investment advice clients obtained during the year—the...

Already a member? log in here.

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Sep 9
In this session we'll discuss the types of technologies and their uses in a small accounting firm office.
Sep 10
Transfer your knowledge and experience to prepare your team for the challenges and opportunities of an accounting career.
Sep 11
This webcast will include discussions of commonly-applicable Clarified Auditing Standards for audits of non-public, non-governmental entities.
Sep 24
In this jam-packed presentation Excel expert David Ringstrom, CPA will give you a crash-course in creating spreadsheet-based dashboards. A dashboard condenses large amounts of data into a compact space, yet enables the end user to easily drill down into details when warranted.