An Oregon pastor and his wife -- tax protesters who appear to have morphed into antigovernment "sovereign citizens" -- are now federal fugitives after refusing to appear for sentencing last week in Eugene, Ore., following their convictions for income tax evasion.
Ronald D. Joling, 71, and his wife, Dorothea, 72, of Coquille, Ore., “have engaged in a shameless scheme to defraud the United States and to evade payment of $1.2 million in federal taxes since 1992," Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott E. Bradford said in court filings.
As a deterrent to such antigovernment tax protesters, the prosecutor recommended that the 71-year-old pastor of the conservative Hope Covenant Reformed Church in Coquille be sentenced to 121 months in prison, with 60 months recommended for Dorothea Joling.
Prosecutors have seized multiple rental properties and land owned by the couple and have asked the federal court to order the Jolings to pay $1.2 million in restitution to the U.S. government.
But Assistant Federal Defender Mark Bennett Weintraub said such a sentence was excessive, claiming it “is unreasonable to believe” that antigovernment activists like the Jolings will be “deterred or dissuaded b y the federal government’s exercise of its immense power.”
“Mr. Joling will be seen as a martyr by those who think about him at all, but their antigovernment beliefs and behavior are unlikely to change, especially in a time of increasing political polarization, when one major political party and a cable news network with millions of viewers continue to stoke antigovernment opinion,” Weintraub told the court.
“The convictions of tax protesters are one example of the uselessness of criminal prosecutions to achieve deterrence in this area. No sentence of any length is going to persuade them that the federal government or its tax laws are legitimate.”
The Jolings were indicted in October 2011 on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, evasion of payment of federal income taxes and filing false income tax returns. Ronald Joling was convicted of all charges following a six-day jury trial last October. Dorothea Joling was convicted only on the conspiracy count. They were released prior to sentencing which was scheduled last Wednesday.
The defendants attempted to avoid paying federal taxes by setting up “abusive trusts, appointing nominees and a warehouse bank in their attempts to manipulate the Social Security Administration, the United States Bankruptcy Court and the IRS,” Bradford said in court filings.
The Jolings, who have attempted to revoke their U.S. citizenships, filed “several false and retaliatory liens” against judges and prosecutors involved in the case. At one point, Ronald Joling placed his hand on an IRS agent’s shoulder and threatened to have him arrested by the local sheriff for trespassing. The Jolings also engaged in “a harassment-by-mail campaign,” repeatedly threatening the IRS agent with arrest and prosecution “for simply doing his job,” the prosecutor told the court.
The day before they failed to show up for sentencing, the couple mailed the court paperwork identifying themselves as “Ronald-Dean and Dorothea-Joan, of the House of Joling” again questioning government authority over them – a hallmark of sovereign citizens.
Even after their convictions, the Jolings continued to refuse to acknowledge the authority of the court and the IRS’s lawful authority to assess and collect taxes, Bradford told the court.
“For too long, (the) defendants have had an attitude of greed and arrogance and have taken advantage of the voluntary nature of our tax system – basically, taking advantage of their fellow citizens who have unfairly carried their burden.”
“It is time (the) defendants learned that they are not above the law and that they have a duty and a responsibility to pay their fair share of taxes,” the prosecutor said.