Voice from grave gets wife probation Suicide note asking for leniency for wife convinces judge in tax case.

December 03, 1991|By Raymond L. Sanchez | Raymond L. Sanchez,Evening Sun Staff

Tax protester William Schuhl, in a suicide note, asked the court to show his wife "humanity."

The court did that yesterday.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Eugene Lerner gave Martha Schuhl, also a tax protester, probation before judgment and ordered her to pay $1,998 in back taxes.

Lerner said Martha Schuhl, who faced up to 15 years in prison, paid a heavy price: The loss of her husband. "I sincerely am sorry," he said.

Martha Schuhl's tax-evasion conviction will be struck down once she successfully completes one year of probation.

William Schuhl, 49, shot himself to death Oct. 17, one week after he and his wife were convicted of tax evasion.

"Every once in a while, when I'm about to give up on the system, we see some compassion from both the court and the prosecution," said Fred R. Joseph, Martha Schuhl's attorney. "We saw that today [yesterday]."

In a letter to state officials mailed the day of his suicide, William Schuhl asked for leniency for his wife and took full blame for the Bowie couple's failure to file state income taxes in 1987, 1988 and 1989.

"Please let my wife go," he wrote. "All she wants is to be left alone and she will pay her taxes. She is not to blame for the mess I made. She is innocent. Her mistake was believing me instead of the state . . . if you have any humanity left, show it to her."

In court yesterday, Lerner read part of the letter, which was signed: "William Schuhl. Dead citizen of Maryland."

Assistant Attorney General Norman Smith recommended probation for Martha Schuhl. "Just for humanitarian reasons," he said later.

William Schuhl, who worked for an engineering consulting firm in Washington, owed the state about $7,000 in state income taxes. His wife owed $1,998.

Joseph said Martha Schuhl, 46, employed by an insurance company, was a "follower" in her husband's tax protest.

"It's been a very tough couple of months for Mrs. Schuhl," he said. "Her most heinous offense up to this was a one-point speeding ticket."

William Schuhl hired Joseph to represent him and his wife the day before killing himself. He told his new lawyer he was disappointed at the outcome of his tax-evasion trial.

"I've never been so shocked," the lawyer said of the suicide. "He appeared at peace with himself and everything that was going on. . . . I had no idea."

Tax protest was one of several causes to which William Schuhl devoted his life. His wife testified that his tax protesting activities were like his "mistress." He also was active in the anti-abortion movement, Joseph said.

"It was a tragic end to a very difficult life," the lawyer said. "He was involved in a number of causes and often came out on the losing side. He was a very well respected and talented guy."

William and Martha Schuhl were "happily married," recently exchanging tennis rackets as anniversary gifts, Joseph said.

The widow now "wants to get on with her life," he added.

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