Former delegate gets prison, $25,000 fine for tax evasion

September 26, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

Homeless advocate Bea Gaddy and a retired Harford County judge were among the friends and family members to crowd a federal courtroom in Baltimore yesterday in support of former state Del. Lester V. Jones. But none of them could keep him from going to jail.

Senior U.S. District Judge Herbert N. Maletz sentenced Jones to 18 months in prison and fined him $25,000 for his tax-evasion conviction.

Jones, 59, had asked to be sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service work at Mrs. Gaddy's shelter for the homeless, but Judge Maletz denied the request.

A prison term was needed as a deterrent to other would-be tax evaders, the judge said.

"The defendant did not evade the payment of his taxes out of financial need or stress," Judge Maletz said, but "simply decided to spend approximately $135,000 on condominiums, luxury cars and other items of personal gratification rather than on his income taxes."

The judge's decision was a victory for federal prosecutors, who had sought a prison sentence after trying Jones twice on charges that he underreported his income by $290,000 in 1983 and 1984. He underpaid his taxes by $135,000, but has since repaid the debt.

A mistrial was declared in the first trial in July 1991 when jurors could not reach a decision. In the second trial last April, a federal jury convicted him of the tax evasion charges. He was acquitted of two counts of filing false statements.

Jones is a former Baltimore County prosecutor who served in the House of Delegates from 1966 to 1975. He since had been practicing law in Harford County. He continued to deny that he evaded taxes.

"I feel -- and I feel I must say this -- that the government feels that I must be punished because I maintain my innocence," he said. "I hope the court would not impose a sentence based on that."

His lawyer, Stephen H. Sachs, described the conviction as an aberration for his client.

Mr. Sachs also said Jones was a caring man whose health is failing. He called two character witnesses. One of them, retired Harford County Judge Albert P. Close, told the court that he know Jones as a man of his word.

Mrs. Gaddy also testified that she wanted Jones to work at her East Baltimore shelter. "There are so many things this man could do," she said.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph L. Evans said the request to be sentenced to community service at the shelter was an "unseemly manipulation of that organization."

He said a prison sentence was needed to show that a wealthy former public official gets treated the same as anyone else when convicted of tax evasion.

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