An appeals court judge has ordered that a tax protestor is entitled to a new trial because he was denied the opportunity for expert testimony from his psychiatrist.
Judge Richard C. Tallman ruled in favor of Lawrence Cohen, who worked at a Las Vegas store where he and two co-defendants had sold books, audiotapes, videos and instructional packages from tax protestor Irwin Schiff explaining how to "legally stop paying income taxes." He and Schiff, along with another of Schiff's followers, Cynthia Neun, provided advice to customers on how to file a "zero return," federal income tax returns with a zero on each line related to income and expenses.
Cohen was convicted of one count of aiding and assisting in the filing of a false federal income tax return, for which he received a 33-month sentence. His lawyer argued that his conviction should be overturned because the district court wrongfully excluded the expert testimony of a psychiatrist who would have offered evidence of "narcissistic personality disorder" that convinced him to continue promoting Schiff's tax schemes despite the evidence of penalty. Judge Tallman agreed, reversed Cohen's conviction, vacated his sentence, and ordered a new district court trial.
Schiff also appealed his conviction for criminal contempt after he ignored the trial judge's repeated warnings that he stop arguing to the jury his views of tax law. Throughout the trial, in which he represented himself, he instructed witnesses to read passages from his books explaining his characterization of the voluntary nature of the federal income tax, and asked questions that contained his interpretations of the tax law.
Schiff also had his contempt convictions vacated by Tallman due to the district court's failure to properly file contempt orders for each of the convictions. However, Tallman also allowed the district court to file those orders in proper form, to reinstate the contempt convictions and reimpose punishment on Schiff.
Schiff was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the government for the purpose of impeding and impairing the IRS, five counts of aiding and assisting in the filing of false income tax returns, one count of tax evasion, and six counts of filing false income tax returns. He received a 151-month sentence.
Neun was convicted of one count of conspiracy, nine counts of aiding and assisting, three counts of willfully failing to file income tax returns, one count of Social Security disability fraud, and one count of theft of government property. She did not appeal her 68-month sentence, however.
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