US v. Taylor, No. 06-2216 (8/16/07). I hereby apologize to my audience for not getting to this case within minutes after it came out, as I usually do that. I was seduced by the lure of a rehearing issue, as I thought it was really important. This is more important. Unfortunately, the First, as usual, defers to the government on what constitutes a “reasonable” sentence, in an “aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, a violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(2).” The District Court handed down a non-jail sentence. The First wants the taxpayers to pay to keep this part-time high school music teacher, part-time tax preparer in jail. Isn’t that ironic?
The defendant presented letters stating that he could
continue as a teacher, 48 prominent people saying that he walked on water.
Despite the result, the First does go about part of this somewhat intelligently. It splits with the Seventh and Ninth circuits, about whether Courts of Appeal should “engage in an independent review of whether a district court properly interpreted the Sentencing Commission's policy statements in determining a sentence.” The Seventh and Ninth say no. The First says yes. After that, the First holds, the review is for reasonableness.
Substantively, the court looks at U.S.S.G. § 5H1.11 (good
works departures) and concludes that based on the testimony at sentencing, such
a departure was warranted. The First
reiterates that the FSGs are not “presumptively” reasonable, but then explains
that the defendant committed many offenses, and although tax fraud isn’t
violent it is “theft.” (I actually agree
with the First on this, but I disagree with their assertion that the “community”
considers it theft. While I really hate
tax cheats (they are as bad as people that are unkind to animals), my impression
is that many people do not.). The First
goes on to note that the defendant impeded the IRS’s investigation, by trying
to get his clients to lie. (Okay, I don’t
like that, either.)
But, the First says that the District Court accorded too much weight to the fact that his absence from school would negatively impact his students. Come on folks, this is a public school we are talking about. Not a private one. Music lessons and band practice are one of the few things that teach all students – not just the popular or smart ones -- discipline and creativity. But then it says that the defendant – convicted of a “white collar crime” was really just expected to engage in charitable activities. This is a load a horsehockey! This defendant wasn’t a rich CEO. This defendant was a lowly music teacher. He probably couldn’t be a rich CEO if he tried. But he probably could be something other than a music teacher. He also didn’t need to go above and beyond the call of duty – but testimony says that he did (which the First ignores.)
Gosh. I am torn. I really hate tax cheats. But, sending this guy to prison seems like an egregious waste of taxpayer money. Treating this guy like a CEO that engaged in charitable works for advertising purposes just isn’t fair, and wasn’t supported by the record, anyway.