Trial Time

While I didn’t get exactly what I wanted today in order to write a full story, I learned a great deal in the process of the ongoing jury trial here in the U.S. District Court in D.C. The case, U.S. v Kahn et al, charges five men with conspiring to defraud the IRS. The five men ran a business that tried to find ways around paying taxes. They offered advice to clients all over the country, but the IRS soon became involved. Agents raided their offices and charged the top men in the organization with defrauding the U.S. government.

The trial has been going on for the last couple of weeks and should last into the middle of next week. The men involved seem to truly believe that they were helping people by exposing laws they thought the IRS was improperly enforcing and finding ways to get around them. The men are all also devout Christians and saw their work as a ministry guided by God.

The tax schemes included denouncing citizenship from “The Corporate United States of America,” filing exemptions as members of an American Indian tribe, and drawing from closed treasury accounts, among other things.
Today the defense attorneys were working on building their case as they called several witnesses to the stand including four of defendant Danny True’s children and the pastor of the church the family attends. They sought to humanize the case as they marched out the model family. One of True’s daughters was pregnant.

The defense was also pleased when the prosecution made what seemed to be a basic error. When the defense attorneys were done questioning the pastor of the True’s family church, Clark Benson, the government attorneys chose to cross-examine him. Benson was a character witness who testified that True’s honesty could be described as “excellent without question, he is a truthful guy.”

When questioning witnesses, lawyers know that they shouldn’t ask a question if they don’t know the answer ahead of time. And they also know they walk a fine line between being liked and disliked by jurors. This seemed true as the prosecutor grilled Benson about some of True’s tax practices. The prosecutor came off as overly aggressive with the jovial Benson, repeatedly asking him if allegations against him changed his opinion of True. Benson forcefully replied that it did not because he knew True for several years to be an honest and good man.

Things were ramped up today as family and friends became involved in this case of white collar crime. The jury never seemed bored and both teams of lawyers worked furiously to win points for their side.

Fortunately Chief U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth lightened the mood. Referring to fake names that some employees at the tax scheme organization had on payroll sheets, the judge asked Seth True, Danny True’s son and a part-time employee of the organization, “If you could have a fake name what would it be?” True answered, “Probably Chuck Norris.”

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