Simkanin Gets 7 Years
- Posted on Fri, Apr. 30, 2004
Defiant tax protester gets seven-year sentence
By Toni Heinzl
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
FORT WORTH - He calls himself a "Christian patriot" and a "political prisoner."
Convicted in January on 29 counts of violating U.S. income tax laws, Bedford businessman Richard Simkanin remained defiant in his anti-government stance at his sentencing Friday.
Simkanin, 59, told U.S. District Judge John McBryde that after spending thousands of hours studying federal tax laws, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, he concluded that he did not agree with the tax laws.
But McBryde had heard enough. Going beyond federal sentencing guidelines, McBryde sentenced Simkanin to seven years in prison and ordered him to pay $302,000 in restitution to the government.
In explaining the tough sentence, McBryde cited Simkanin's history of radical anti-government beliefs and his "contempt and disrespect" for the federal government and the federal courts.
"He and those who share his views have a cultlike belief that laws that are generally accepted by citizens of the United States are not applicable to them," McBryde said. "The defendant has entrenched himself in anti-government groups."
McBryde said Simkanin would continue to violate income tax laws. The judge recalled that Simkanin threatened to kill federal judges and that he surrendered his Texas driver's license but continued to drive with a home-made ID card.
On Jan. 7, a federal jury convicted Simkanin on 10 felony counts of failing to withhold about $139,000 in taxes from employees' wages at his company, Arrow Custom Plastics, and 15 felony counts of filing false tax refund claims for about $235,000.
He was also found guilty of four misdemeanor counts for failing to file individual income tax returns from 1998 to 2001. Simkanin had an estimated gross income of about $410,000 during these years, prosecutors said.
Arch McColl, the Dallas lawyer representing Simkanin, said he would appeal. McColl had asked for a sentence of 41 months at the low end of the federal guidelines. He described Simkanin as a non-conformist American in the tradition of Henry David Thoreau.
"He has a sincere, well thought-out position that is at odds with the government position," McColl said. "Reasonable people disagree about the tax laws. My client is an American citizen who, like Thoreau, walked to the beat of a different drummer."
But prosecutors pointed to Simkanin's long history of law-breaking, saying the last time he filed complete individual and corporate federal income tax returns dates back to the mid-1990s.
"We're going to have chaos in this country if individual citizens are allowed to decide unilaterally which laws are constitutional and which aren't," Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jarvis said. "The sentence for Mr. Simkanin was quite severe and appropriate."
Jarvis noted that Simkanin's defiance of the federal courts continued even after his conviction in January.
In a court judgment entered March 11, Simkanin and Arrow Custom Plastics' new owner, James Keffer, to whom he sold the business Feb. 17, agreed to file employment tax returns for the years 2000 through 2003 within 30 days. The judgment was issued by McBryde in a civil action filed by tax attorneys for the Justice Department in December to force Simkanin to comply with tax laws.
But the requested tax documents were not filed by the deadline, government lawyers said in a motion on April 21, asking McBryde to hold Simkanin and Keffer in contempt.
Simkanin rose to fame in tax protester circles -- and gained the attention of the IRS -- in March 2001 when he appeared in a full-page ad in USA Today with a group of like-minded citizens who announced their opposition to the federal income taxes. Later that year, prosecutors sent Simkanin a target letter notifying him that he was under investigation.
The group behind the ad, We the People, soon portrayed Simkanin as a martyr for the cause of freedom from IRS tyranny.
While under investigation, Simkanin posted a warning on his Web site that spoke of the "fury of a fire" that would consume his adversaries. He wrote to the Treasury secretary that he had repatriated himself from the United States to the "Republic of Texas." He vowed to ignore the laws of the United States.
While tax protesters from the We the People group crowded McBryde's courtroom during the trial, hardly a handful of supporters showed up for his sentencing.
Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and a blue jacket, Simkanin invoked Scripture, James 5:4. In his view, the passage means that a laborer's wages are withheld through fraud.
His face showed an expression of defiance and sadness. He expressed no remorse for his actions but regretted the effect of his prison sentence on his severely ill wife, Carole.
"I do apologize to my wife for what she will go through in my absence," Simkanin said.
Toni Heinzl, (817) 390-7684 theinzl@...
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- I was wondering if Gene Chapman made it to the sentencing in order to
provide a little immoral support for Dick?
Thanks for posting that, Tamara.