by Bill Sizemore
On Thursday of this week, Marion County Judge Claudia Burton signed an amended judgment converting my 2011 felony tax evasion “convictions” to misdemeanors. The new judgment is retroactive to August of 2011 and replaces the old one, so now I no longer have to state on job applications that I am or was ever a convicted felon. That feels pretty good.
In a nutshell, in August of 2011, I was all but forced to plead guilty to filing state tax returns late, notwithstanding the fact that I had paid tens of thousands of dollars in estimated taxes and notwithstanding the fact that my 2008 tax return was only a few months late when then Attorney General John Kroger indicted my wife and me for felony tax evasion.
After extensive research, my attorney was unable to find one single Oregonian who had been prosecuted solely for filing state income tax returns late, let alone after paying good faith estimated taxes. Given the circumstances, even some of my political enemies had to admit that the prosecution looked to be politically motivated.
Being a felon for more than three years and having to report to a probation officer every month and get permission just to cross state lines was a very humbling experience. Spending 18 days in county jail wearing an orange sweatshirt was not all that fun either. Looking back, probably the most valuable thing I learned from the ordeal was if you are going to be a conservative activist in Oregon and cut taxes by billions of dollars and challenge the political power of the public employee unions, you had better dot every “i” and cross every “t” and then after that, cross your fingers.
After serving my time in jail and while serving out my three years of probation, I gleaned some comfort from the fact that shortly after prosecuting my wife and me, John Kroger left office early with his tail between his legs, along with his right hand man, chief counsel Sean Riddell. Riddell is the one who instigated the entire fiasco, and he was “asked to resign” for destroying evidence and bullying witnesses in another case.
There is a lot more I would like to say about the experience and the way in went down, but it would probably just be unhealthy venting so I will leave it at this. Today, I am just rejoicing with my family that I am no longer a felon and appreciating the judge’s grace and fair handedness. Oh, and thanking all of the many friends who prayed long and earnestly that the court would rule in my favor. Considering all of the lack of justice I have experienced in Oregon courts, this week’s outcome seems rather miraculous.
I am grateful. I am no longer a felon and today that feels pretty darn good. And as for all of those measures I placed on the ballot and the taxes that were cut, I would gladly do it all again.
This latest good news came on the heels of some other good news. A couple of months ago the teachers unions and I settled more than a decade of lawsuits involving $20 million in potential judgments, and in the end I did not have to pay a dime or admit any wrongdoing whatsoever. It all just went away.
Overall, it has been a pretty liberating winter here at the Sizemore house.