"A serious blemish on an otherwise outstanding life.” That’s what U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb said recently when she sentenced former Mets pitcher Jerry Koosman, age 66, to prison for tax evasion. Her comments are not surprising when you consider that, unlike most celebrities who get caught not paying their fair share, Koosman not only pleaded guilty and apologized as well.
According to the IRS, Koosman failed to file tax returns and pay taxes on his income from 2002, 2003, and 2004, depriving the government of about $80,000. His income for those years amounted to $754,950, which included $130,000 from his major league baseball pension. In 2002 he also earned $25,000 from autographs and personal appearances and sold stock worth $551,881.
In 2006 when IRS agents knocked on his door to talk about the missing returns, Koosman brought out three binders of documents that challenged the government’s right to levy taxes. Based on his own research and the arguments of others, he was swept up in the arguments made by many that the government only had the legal right to tax residents of the District of Columbia and federal workers.
“I tend to trust people more than I should,” he said. “Like most people in their sixties, I've made some bad decisions in my life. I shouldn’t have listened to those people about tax returns, but I did, and I take full responsibility.”
Koosman’s attorney, Robert Bernhoft argued for probation for his client, saying "He has a reputation for being too trusting and naïve.” That characterization might have helped Koosman’s cause somewhat.
Judge Crabb opted not to limit the punishment to probation, but instead of the one-year sentence she could have given him, she cut it in half with a six-month sentence, plus a year of supervised release. Koosman will report to prison to begin serving his time on November 3rd. He must also continue to work with the IRS to pay off the debt. He has filed the missing returns and still owes about $65,000.
Koosman was the former all-star, left-handed pitcher who helped the Mets win the 1969 World Series. Prior to that major win, the New York Daily News reports that many thought of the Mets as a laughingstock team. Just a few weeks before Koosman was sentenced to prison, he and his fellow Miracle Mets teammates were cheered at an event in Queens.