Bel Air man guilty of not filing state tax returns

August 07, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

Ronald H. Brodt Sr., a Bel Air life insurance salesman charged with willfully failing to file state income tax returns for 1990, 1991 and 1992, got his day in court last week before a jury of his peers.

The panel members, sitting in Harford Circuit Court, convicted Brodt, 46, of the 2800 block of Henley Drive on all counts after two hours of deliberation at the end of a four-day trial.

Judge William O. Carr ordered a presentence investigation of the defendant and set sentencing for Sept. 30.

Brodt contended after he was indicted last year that the charges were "nothing but a vendetta" and said he would be glad to

"have my day in court."

Prosecutor William Christoforo said Brodt sold term life insurance, mostly to military personnel at Aberdeen Proving Ground, and earned an average of $120,000 a year. But Brodt filed no state or federal income tax returns and had paid no state or federal income taxes since 1984, the prosecutor said.

Mr. Christoforo said investigators documented about $120,000 of Brodt's income for 1990, 1991 and 1992 -- enough to show that the defendant had taxable income for which he didn't file returns -- through Form 1099 statements sent to him by several life insurance companies for which he sold policies as an independent contractor.

The prosecutor said a small amount of the defendant's income came from rent he had collected on a basement apartment at his Henley Drive residence.

"It's unconscionable that the state comptroller's office let this guy go for 10 years," Mr. Christoforo said. "It just encourages others like him not to pay income tax. It's not fair to everyone

who does."

Brodt's lawyers, Lowell H. Becraft Jr. of Alabama and Carl Schlaich of Bel Air, concentrated the defense on the "willfulness" of their client's actions.

Mr. Becraft, who specializes in tax evasion cases, elicited testimony from Brodt and Marsden Furlow, a self-proclaimed "self-taught paralegal," to establish that Brodt believed he was not liable for filing tax returns in 1985, when he decided to stop filing them.

Mr. Furlow testified that he got involved with Brodt in 1992, when he began preparing letters for Brodt concerning his tax matters. Brodt signed and mailed those letters to state and federal tax officials.

Brodt testified that he stopped filing tax returns after his own research and attendance at meetings sponsored by Save-A-Patriot Fellowship, a private tax protest group, convinced him that he "was not liable to pay taxes."

Brodt said his interpretation of the law was easy to understand: The Internal Revenue Service code states that any person made liable for income tax must file a return. But he argued that he is not liable for filing returns because an income tax really is an excise tax.

"Excise tax is a privilege," he told the jury. "Work is not a privilege. It's a right, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and Bill Rights."

Brodt insisted that state law requires the comptroller to publish all tax forms in COMAR, a book of state regulations spelling out what must be done to comply with state laws.

Form 502, the state income tax return form, is not in COMAR, Brodt said.

He told Mr. Christoforo it was "coincidental" that his addresses given to tax officials changed from year to year between his Bel Air home and his mother's home in Aberdeen.

He said "mailbox baseball" -- a game Harford County vandals played when they drove through neighborhoods bashing mail boxes -- caused him to change his address frequently so he wouldn't lose mail.

Brodt contended that Joseph I. Cassilly, the Harford state's attorney, charged him with tax evasion because Mr. Cassilly couldn't get a conviction on obstruction charges stemming from a murder investigation of his son Kenneth.

Court records showed that Ronald Brodt was acquitted in December of charges that he had hindered a 1991 murder investigation involving his son.

Kenneth Brodt pleaded guilty in October to murdering Bessie Urban Mitchell, 73, and Emily Urban Hanby, 75, during a 1991 robbery at the Sportsman Center. The 21-year-old was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in prison.

Ronald Brodt could receive a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in state prison on the tax evasion convictions, Mr. Christoforo said.

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