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Prosecutors Want Barry Jailed Over Tax Returns

Marion Barry attends a D.C. City Council session in December.
Marion Barry attends a D.C. City Council session in December. (Bill O'Leary - Post)

Prosecutors don't usually have to pursue tax offenders for continuing to break tax laws because such repeat violations are rare.

"There are severe consequences for violating the tax laws," said Nathan Hochman, a former top Justice Department tax prosecutor. "The likelihood of going to jail for committing the same exact crime goes up dramatically" when repeat offenders go before the same judge.

Ironically, Barry might be due a tax refund, because the D.C. government withholds a portion of his $92,530 salary, according to sources familiar with the matter.

In their favor this time around, prosecutors have cobbled together a lengthy history of what they have called Barry's "recalcitrant" attitude toward his tax duty.

Barry pleaded guilty in 2005 to not filing federal or D.C. returns from 1999 through 2004, a period when he was not in public office. He also admitted that he did not pay the bulk of his taxes on more than $500,000 he earned during those years.

Even then, he annoyed authorities and Robinson by not promptly filing tax returns or arranging to pay his tax debt, the size of which has not been publicly disclosed. An irritated Robinson was forced to delay Barry's sentencing for a month until those matters were cleaned up. Then she gave him three years of probation.

Prosecutors returned to court less than a year later when it became apparent that the council member had not filed his 2005 return even in the midst of the legal drama. They asked Robinson to revoke Barry's probation and send him to jail.

Robinson at first declined to grant prosecutors a hearing, but she was reversed by U.S. District Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan. Later, Robinson ruled that prosecutors did not prove the former mayor had intentionally violated the tax code.

In court papers filed yesterday, prosecutors said Barry is "well aware" that he must comply with tax laws.

"The court's patience should be at an end," prosecutors wrote.

To bolster their case, they wrote, Barry told probation agents that he had filed paperwork to get an extension to file his returns in October -- just as he was being granted permission to leave the country for a vacation in Jamaica.

A month later, prosecutors wrote, Barry "promised" that he would file his returns in two weeks. They said he missed that deadline, too.

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