FW: RIOY sentencing
Jun 22, 2005 12:40 PDT
Joan is with the Conscience, Militarism, and War Tax Concerns group of
the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
From: Joan Broadfield [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, June 22, 2005 2:11 PM
Subject: RIOY sentencing
Hi ruth - here is my informal report... as I say at end, I'll be there
7/1, and I may have company in the bodies of Friends interested. If
something seems unclear, let me know.
I was present today, 6/17/05, in US District (federal) Court in Camden.
Peter Goldberger's client, Inge Donato, is part of a religious community
Restored Israel of Yahweh, an independently organized Christian
community in New Jersey. Her husband, Joseph, and his partner Kevin
McKee were separately represented, and all faced sentencing together.
RIOY is a small, 60 year old Bible study association in New Jersey.
CMWTC was invited as war tax resister support organization to be present
by Peter, and I was encouraged by CMWTC to attend, to learn and to
McKee and Donato had a construction company, and did not file personal
income tax returns due to biblical pacifism- which the group has come to
on their own by their study of the Bible. It would seem that because
their business was a for-profit, that the governent leaned hard on
prosecuting them. After many years, they were brought up on charges
and convicted. The details have been covered briefly, probably
insufficiently, in the papers. I remember reading and Inquirer report
about them. There were issues of the business being profit oriented, and
the business not obeying tax law, and the issue of individuals not
paying themselves. I believe the case is about the business. Inga was
the unpaid bookeeper of the org for a number of years. They employed
people within their group and outside their group, and paid the taxes of
those (outside) who requested it. They were found guilty and this was
their sentencing hearing.
Peter states that "To my knowledge these are the first war tax resisters
ever to be convicted of 'conspiracy to defraud the US' and 'attempted
tax evation' -- very excessive charges no matter how you look at it."
Session began at 10:30 and was continued at 3:30, to meet again July 1,
10 AM. There promises to be some interesting conversations with counsel
and the Judge, and perhaps IRS? in the meantime. But I get ahead of the
Sentencing opens with the judge summarizing what information he has,
what he has received about those to be sentenced - letters about the
case, about the convicted - and then reviews aspects of the case that
the prosecutors have suggested should weigh against the convicted, and
make the sentence harsher. (The judge spoke at a difficult-to-hear
range, so some words were lost-like the word for this.)
This was a long, fascinating process, where the judge brought up the
points, listened to why they should and should not be wieghed, in turn
listening to both sides and asking each questions - to clarify for
himself what assumptions he should hold, which were valid, etc. One
claim of the prosecution, that there was breach of trust by Inga, was
dismissed by the Judge outright. Others he seemed to agree needed
Because of the technicalities I do not want to be confusing by trying to
cite the specific points of the prosecution until I see Peter's report.
Based on my understanding and notes, some points made by the prosecution
to support claims of criminality were:
-not filing at all showed it was not a religious conviction against war,
since no payment into social security (FICA), or to state taxes.
-not filing showed consipiracy
-...and an encouragement to break the law; as subcontractors, under the
table business not prosecuted would send bad message to subcontractors
-refusal to pay was willful, no apologies nor repentance offered
-not punishing granted those claiming religious CO status a special
status, permission to break the law
Points that were offered in the conversation to mitigate charge of
-just because this group was not skillful or artful in refusing to pay
for war does not mean they are not acting from a sincere religious
-individuals were feeling compelled against paying war taxes out of
focused bible study.
-there was a long, fascinating discussion about whether the culture of
the business, because it did not obey tax law, created a culture that by
its very nature encouraged breaking the law. Peter insisted that it
facilitated, but did not encourage. The Judge flatly disagreed: it did
encourage, though did noty compell. It supported an envrionement to
break the law (he looked at the stats of nonfiling ) which made it more
likely to have people participate in the business who were comfortable
with that stance. (I personally am still not sure. Peter made good
-to the judge's question why they did not file and not pay the portion,
they replied that this would still be against the law (the judge thought
not... interestingly). They also pointed to the use of social security
to pay federal bills, and wars... as it is borrowed from often.
-since refusal was based on religious conviction, apology nor repentance
were not appropriate. (later, 1 defendant did express sorroow that his
position put the court in this position!
-it was noted that there was no way that CO conviction was accomodated
in tax law. (I believe the judge finally realized this was possibly
During this whole process, the judge, who clearly wanted to hear out
everything, still did not seem to be convinced that religious conviction
shoulc/could trump the law. The government wanted assurance that the
defendants would pay all back taxes, an assurance the defendants could
not give. The judge still seemed to maintain that refusal to pay all
taxes seemed to work against the religion arguement. While he seemed
fair, he clearly did not seem to understand how the government policy
does not accomodate easily a tax refuser who files. People with
conscience, it would seem, just should act right and the government
would not prosecute, but would make allowance. That 's what he seemed
Then the final phase, which focused on the 3 individuals and what their
separate actions brought to the sentencing possibilities, began. And
this is where it started getting REALLY interesting. This was when the
judge heard from the defendants personally, and in that
statement/questioning process, the judge began, it seemed, to shift.
Would, he wondered, the IRS accept an alternative to get their money?
Would IRS agree to accept as full payment a penalty equal to amount
owed, which would not get put in the war taxes amount paid? There was
clearly excitement about this, even as there was doubt expressed that
IRS would be so flexible, but they will in fact try to come up with such
a proposal. And so conversations will happen, and court will reconvene
July 1 at 10 am.
I am hooked. If anyone wants to join me July 1, let me know.
~~~~~~From Joan Broadfield~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Peace & Justice Coordinator ~ Philadelphia Yearly Meeting ~
215-241-7240 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org