- Associated Press - Monday, December 5, 2016

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Church, community and political leaders are expected to appear in federal court next month to show their support for former State Rep. Joe Armstrong as he hopes to avoid prison time for filing a false tax return.

Armstrong’s attorney, Gregory P. Isaacs, has filed 55 letters of support for the veteran legislator and leader in the black community in the run-up to a January sentencing hearing, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported (https://bit.ly/2gHmciq ).

The list includes ministers, civic leaders, business owners and politicians, including state Sen. Reginald Tate, state Rep. Larry Miller and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.

“Rep. Armstrong and I did not always agree on politics,” Burchett, a conservative Republican, wrote about Armstrong, a liberal Democrat. “In my presence, I never witnessed him doing anything perceived to be crooked.”

Armstrong could be given a sentence of anywhere between 15 months and 41 months, court filings show. That gap is to be the subject of a separate legal battle that will take place later this month before Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips.

Isaacs is pushing to lower the penalty range - and thereby increase the likelihood that Armstrong gets probation - by challenging how much money the IRS actually lost.

In August, a jury found Armstrong guilty of filing a false tax return related to about $321,000 he earned from a cigarette tax-stamp deal he made. Jurors acquitted Armstrong of the two most serious charges by rejecting the prosecution’s argument that the lawmaker and his accountant had been part of a plot. Still, the panel concluded Armstrong knew he should have put those earnings on his tax return and didn’t.

Armstrong was a 28-year veteran of the state Legislature and a leader of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. He resigned in September.

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Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com


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