D.C. cop faults bad advice in tax rap

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A veteran D.C. homicide detective facing felony tax-evasion charges says he got the idea for becoming a “tax protester” at work and is not the only city police officer who failed to pay taxes in recent years.

Attorneys for Michael C. Irving say their client heard from a former Metropolitan Police Department detective that declaring “tax-protester status” to the Internal Revenue Service could be a “legitimate way to avoid paying taxes.”

“Based upon information we have gathered in the course of the defense investigation, we have reason to believe that several other police officers filed documents with the IRS similar or identical to those filed by Detective Irving,” defense attorneys argued in recent legal pleadings.

Detective Irving, who earned an average of $156,000 a year from 2002 to 2005, was indicted in May on tax evasion, fraud and other felony charges and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

So far, his defense appears similar to that of actor Wesley Snipes. The actor’s attorney reportedly has said Mr. Snipes’ pending criminal tax charges stem from following unscrupulous tax advice.

In new court pleadings, Detective Irving’s attorneys argued, “Mr. Irving fell victim to a group of people who distributed tax-protester materials and prepared tax forms as a way to make money off naive taxpayers.”

According to defense pleadings, a former detective who is deceased gave Detective Irving and other officers advice on declaring their status as a tax protester, purportedly allowing them not to file returns or pay taxes.

In addition, another city police detective, Darryl Richmond, testified in grand jury proceedings that based on information he got from a colleague, “he held a belief that citizens weren’t responsible for paying taxes” and that he did not file tax returns for two years, according to defense papers.

Detective Richmond yesterday declined to discuss the situation, saying he was not familiar with Detective Irving’s court pleadings.

“I can’t comment on something I haven’t seen,” he said.

Detective Irving’s attorneys said other officers also were involved. Defense motions were filed to force the government to turn over tax-return information for the officers. They also want prosecutors to release Detective Richmond’s grand jury testimony.

“The records of these persons will substantiate the testimony of Detective Irving and provide information verifying the reasons why Detective Irving believed that his actions were legal; namely, that other law enforcement officers were doing the same thing and also believed that they were complying with the law,” the attorneys argued.

Defense attorney David Schertler could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Prosecutors said they should not release the records and have accused the defense of going on a “fishing expedition.”

“Extraneous tax records have nothing to do with defendant’s subjective understanding of the tax laws,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Kelly stated in court papers filed Friday.

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