A federal judge has sentenced a man to more than four years in prison for driving his SUV into an Internal Revenue Service building in Birmingham in 2008.

Ernest Milton Barnett pleaded guilty in March to a two-count indictment that charged him with using a deadly weapon, specifically a Jeep Cherokee Sport Utility Vehicle, in his Aug. 26, 2008, assault on IRS employees. It also charged him with willfully damaging government property.

Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins ordered Barnett, 50, on Wednesday to serve 52 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. She ordered him to report to prison on Oct. 12. The judge also ordered Barnett to pay more than $3,000 in restitution to the IRS and IRS employees injured in the assault.

“This defendant undertook a senseless and outrageous attack on a government building filled with people in order to protest a long-standing tax debt, and innocent and unsuspecting federal employees were injured,” U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said in a statement. “Such a premeditated and unwarranted assault against the federal government demands punishment.”

According to the government’s sentencing memorandum, Barnett conducted the assault as follows: He grew angry during a telephone conversation that morning with an IRS employee and left his Center Point home en route to the IRS building to exact revenge on the government agency.

He was seen driving in both directions around the IRS building before crossing over a curb onto a grassy area at the back of the building. He began to spin his vehicle around, then aimed it at the wall, accelerated and rammed into a window. As employees inside began to flee the breaking glass, Barnett backed up, re-aimed the vehicle and struck the building again.

Earlier this year, another irate taxpayer flew a small airplane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, killing an IRS employee and himself (see Plane Crashes into IRS Building).


The Department of Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration investigated the case. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William G. Simpson.

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