This post was originally published on Forbes Aug 15, 2015
You don't have to agree with Irwin Schiff's views on the federal income tax, to feel sympathy for Peter Schiff's request that his father be released from prison. Irwin, now 87, has been diagnosed with lung cancer and it seems likely that he will not live to see his July 26, 2017 release date. Peter Schiff took his appeal to the Alex Jones show yesterday.
…even though these cases, properly understood, do not support Mr. Schiff’s professed beliefs, they do contain language which, if honestly misconstrued and read out of context, could lead someone without legal training to believe that taxable income is limited to corporate profits
Unfortunately, as a quasi political prisoner, he can't speak for himself. I'm happy to be able to do it for him. Hopefully his courage and his idealism will play a part in restoring the American spirit...
The general impression I get is that once someone latches onto the "tax honesty" views, that may well have been developed by Schiff, there is no letting go. Doctor Ward Dean served a long sentence for embracing Schiff's views and still believes that he is right.
As written, the federal sentencing law provides few and tightly defined occasions for the reduction of a sentence that has been imposed and upheld on appeal. The Bureau of Prisons is assigned the responsibility of identifying (or perhaps recommending; even that is a contested interpretation) prisoners whose "extraordinary circumstances" would/might (again, controversial) justify a reduction. A motion can then be filed with the sentencing court by the U.S. attorney on behalf of the director of the BOP, which opens the door to the judge (in his/her discretion, in light of the purposes of sentencing) to reduce the sentence. A terminal illness with a short remaining life expectancy has always been the paradigm example of this. The BOP recently relaxed their internal standards and policies, in response to sharp criticism of their rare deployment of this power.
Yet the current BOP Director -- who just recently announced his retirement -- approved fewer of these motions last year than the year before! Many prisoners die while awaiting approval by the Director of the BOP of their applications for this relief, more than receive the benefit of a motion. There are some rumbling of backlash against this situation by federal judges and others. Even so, the current situation is not good.
The overwhelming evidence at trial was that Schiff was aware his claimed beliefs lacked merit and that he simply disagreed with the law. Schiff had previously been punished for filing zero returns. He knew that numerous tax returns submitted by his clients had been returned as frivolous by the IRS and had resulted in penalties upheld by courts.