Friday, August 05, 2011

The Oregonian Hyperventilates over Sizemore Again

The Oregonian has a thing about Bill Sizemore. They hyperventilate over there whenever anything negative happens to Sizemore.

Just today the Oregonian made Bill Sizemore's plea deal front page news alongside the DOW's terrible 500 point drop. There was even a picture of Sizemore as well as a text chart showing "key provisions" of Sizemore's sentence. Further, there was link information to other Sizemore stories by the Oregonian. You can feel their salivation in the headline phrase for the online story "goes directly to jail" [does not pass Go; does not collect $200].

Overkill? Sizemore holds no public office and does not disburse public funds, but this is top of the front page news with link information that in Oregonian editorial minds vies with the Dow plunging 500 points in a day and U.S. Representative David Wu's sex scandal and resignation election. Or maybe is more important since the Wu election story and link to past stories is well below the fold.

Compare that with the non-front page story when the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that Dorothy English won her case against Multnomah County. This resulted in a $1.15 million judgement to be taken from public funds as well as a ruling on the application of two conflicting laws. But, there were no sidebar details or in depth analysis of the Supreme Court's ruling. Not even a quotation from the ruling. Just a two sentence paragraph with the $1.15 million award as key fact.

I have no idea what page the English story was was printed on, but the Oregonian's front page images for June 17 and 18, 2010 don't show the story. Still, Bill Sizemore's conviction and 30 day (count 'em 30!) sentence are top priority news at the Oregonian.*

It's this kind of personality-based, political bias that makes the Oregonian a constantly-needs-to-be-checked news source. It requires a number of other Oregon and Portland news resources to balance Oregonian coverage as well as fill in the blanks they leave.

Though I empathize with the 61% of Americans who are "angry" at the media, I still feel sorry for the Oregonian. They haven't a clue about how their bias affects their news coverage. It comes with living in a group think/cascade effect environment.

*Then there's the Oregonian's non-treatment, no mention front page or otherwise, of their own editor's (Robert John Caldwell) DUII arrest.

UPDATE: Sizemore's Side (H/T NW Republican)

By Bill Sizemore

August 6, 2011

If you are reading this, I am behind bars for failure to file Oregon income tax returns. I was not charged with tax evasion, but with failure to file tax returns that I simply could not file.

I did not have trial. I was literally forced to plead guilty to three felonies, because a Marion County judge ruled that I would not be allowed to put on a defense. The court ruled that if I attempted to explain my defense to the jury, a mistrial would be declared and I would be held in contempt pending a new trial under the same rules. Of course if that happened, I would end up in prison after the trial.

The court explicitly ruled that I could not tell the jury why I did not file my 2006, 2007, and 2008 Oregon income tax returns. The judge also ruled that I could not explain to the jury why I could not file the tax returns and also that I could not tell the jury that I paid more than $50,000 in estimated taxes to the state and to the IRS for the years in question.

I also could not tell the jury that I had consulted at length with my CPA, who informed me that he could not calculate my income until a Multnomah County court answered some substantive questions in a pending case. I also could not inform the jury that my own attorney had told me that if filed tax returns not claiming income that was literally more than double my actual income, there was a one hundred percent chance Oregon’s current attorney general would prosecute me for filing false returns.

How did this all come about? Three years ago, two teachers unions and the Oregon Department of Justice told a Multnomah County court that I had taken for personal use approximately $850,000 from a nonprofit I was working with at the time. This statement was blatantly and demonstrably false. In fact, the total expenditures of the nonprofit up to that time for all purposes was hundreds of thousands of dollars less than what the unions and the state said I had personally received.

Nonetheless, the Multnomah County court found me in contempt of court and thanks to the Oregon media the false claims regarding the amount of money I had been paid were front page news in newspapers across the state.

Meanwhile, an extremely ambitious law professor and former federal prosecutor ran for state attorney general and was elected largely with public employee union donations, which totaled approximately $400,000. Attorney general, John Kroger, literally owed his office to the same unions I had been fighting for more than a decade.

I had placed measures on the ballot that had reduced taxes in Oregon in the range of $10 billion. I had put measures on the ballot to force unions to get permission from employees before taking money out of their paychecks for politics and to prevent the use of the public payroll system to collect union political money, which just happens to be the lifeblood of the Democrat machine that runs this state. Over the years, the unions had spent more than $50 million fighting my measures, which is a lot of money in Oregon, and they wanted me gone.

Shortly after taking office, the new attorney general began to pay back his union donors. He opened an investigation and then indicted my wife and I for failure to file Oregon tax returns for three years. ( I had filed tax returns for more than 30 years before the three years in question and have filed since.)

I pled “not guilty” at arraignment, as did my wife. We asked for a jury trial. Later, the attorney general came to us and said he was going to charge my wife with several other felonies, but would drop all charges against her if I would plead guilty to a felony and do ninety days in jail. The charges were entirely baseless and this was clearly emotional blackmail, but this was not the first time John Kroger had shown his ugly side. He had done the same thing in high profile federal cases, i.e. prosecute the wives of executives to force the husbands to plead guilty to save their wives the stress of prosecution. Kroger even confessed in his book that he had moral qualms about this tactic, but had done it anyway.

Nonetheless, here he was doing it again. The prosecutor even told me face to face that he knew my wife was not guilty of anything.

I was fully prepared to go to trial and explain to a jury why I did not file these three tax returns and that in the meanwhile I had in good faith paid my estimated taxes so as to not violate my obligations as a citizen. I wanted to explain to jurors the specific questions that remained unanswered and made it impossible for me to sign the bottom of the return and certify that the information on it was accurate. I wanted to explain why my attorney and I were absolutely certain that this attorney general would prosecute me, if I filed my returns. I believed I had a right as an American to put on a defense when charged with a felony.

The final ruling by Judge Claudia Burton this week truly floors me. It seems so un-American not to allow a person charged with a crime to not put on a defense. The American judicial system clearly has devolved to the point that courts today give so much deference to precedents that they ignore the injustices caused by their doing so. When a judge does that, he or she is not really being a judge. They are not pursuing justice, just choosing which court precedents they wish to apply. In this case, the judge made a series of decisions that resulted in me literally not being allowed to put on a defense.

The bottom line is that by donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to an ambitious law professor who wanted to be attorney general, the public employee unions got their worst political opponent tossed into jail as a felon for something 40,000 Oregonians do every year, not file timely tax returns. In fact, to my knowledge no other person has ever paid estimated taxes and then been prosecuted for not filing their state tax returns.

It is at least worth mentioning that the Oregon Department of Revenue broke with their established procedures in my case. Over the past five years, they did not send me one reminder letter or request for returns. They just quietly convened a secret grand jury and indicted me.

Today, August 4, 2011 I will be heading off to jail. This afternoon, I will enter a plea of guilty to three felonies because my attorney, the prosecutor, and another “mediator” judge told me that if I chose to go to trial I would almost certainly be found guilty, since I could not put on a defense, and would be sentenced by the court to state prison for a year and a half to three years with a possibility of nine years or so.

Do I really have a choice? Thirty days in jail if I plead guilty today or face years in prison if I go to trial where I can’t put on a defense. Concerns for my family dictate the obvious. But am I being railroaded? The answer to that question is self-evident. Is this about tax returns or is it really all about politics? No need to answer that. Have the unions used the legal system to get rid of someone they didn’t want to fight at the ballot box? No doubt about it.

© 2011 Bill Sizemore - All Rights Reserved
The only silver lining is that the Oregonian is not half as shameful as Judge Claudia Burton, Attorney General John Kroger, and the Oregon Department of Revenue. There is a Judge who sees it all.

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