Saturday, July 17, 2010

War-tax resister unfairly portrayed by government/Tax resister to prison

The Bangor Daily News

July 16, 2010



War-tax resister unfairly portrayed by government


Patrick O’Neill  pmtoneill at


On July 26, my friend, Francis “Frank” Donnelly must report to a federal prison in Estill, S.C., to begin serving a year-and-a-day sentence for war-tax resistance. On June 14, Donnelly was sentenced in U.S. District Court for failing to pay his taxes. Donnelly’s case, however, was atypical.


The Bangor Daily News story about Donnelly’s sentencing reported that about three dozen peace activists stood outside the federal courthouse to show support for Donnelly’s stand as a war-tax resister.


Because he is opposed to war, Donnelly, who also faced a court-martial during the Vietnam War years, refused to pay his federal taxes because a large portion of those taxes are used to bankroll what President Dwight D. Eisenhower called the “military industrial complex.”


It was during the Vietnam War that a younger Donnelly, then in the Army reserve, landed in the brig for refusing to wear his uniform as a protest of the war. He also went on record then as a war-tax resister.

At his court-martial Donnelly said he wouldn’t take his military pay or pay for war through taxes.


For those of us who stand with Donnelly in opposition to wars and killing, his stand as a war resister is laudable. At present, the United States is at war overtly in two nations, and we maintain a military presence in more than 100 nations.


At the sentencing, U.S. Attorney James McCarthy called Donnelly a “run of the mill tax cheat.” He berated Donnelly because he made a good living for a few years as a lobster broker, enough to buy a small house in Costa Rica and a lot in Florida, which is not worth very much. He also chastised Donnelly for lending some money to his friends.


He said Donnelly was wrong to apply for food stamps and heating assistance for his home in Lamoine, a modest home that he bought for $20,000 in the 1980s.


U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock, who sentenced Donnelly, also came down hard on the defendant for not going public about his tax resistance. Woodcock, who seemed to be conflicted about how to punish Donnelly, believes civil disobedience is best expressed in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi, who believed in open and public discourse in his peace campaigns. While Gandhi and later in the 20th century Martin Luther King Jr. expressed their direct action openly in the public square, Donnelly’s decision to quietly refuse to pay his taxes is also a valid option of war-tax resistance.


During his sentencing hearing, Donnelly said: “I am not a wealthy man.” He drives an old Buick and lives modestly in a small home.


Yet Donnelly was unfairly portrayed by the government as being greedy and hypocritical, in effect saying that his failure to pay taxes was morally invalid because he made a decent living for a few years selling lobsters, and he didn't go public with his anti-war-tax views.


During the sentencing hearing McCarthy said Donnelly’s gross receipts for some years were more than $1 million. These figures were not accompanied by the fact that Donnelly often made just a few cents on the dollar profit as he drove a small truck 200 miles a day in his lobster business. McCarthy also read aloud a classified ad Donnelly had taken out to rent his home in Costa Rica. What did not come out was the fact that Donnelly rented the home just once for $150 and often let people use it for free.


Donnelly only applied for food stamps and heating assistance after his guilty plea last November. He is now unemployed.


When all was said and done, Woodcock sentenced Donnelly to prison, added more than $92,000 in fines and restitution and a year probation.


The Internal Revenue Service has also presented Donnelly with a bill for almost $1 million for back taxes and fines, a figure that grossly distorts Donnellys income and imposes a lifelong debtors’ prison sentence on him.


After his sentencing, Donnelly said he wished he had been more transparent in his war-tax resistance, but his witness remains powerful. Another component of nonviolent resistance, one I consider more important than transparency, is the willingness of someone to accept the consequences of his or her actions, something Frank Donnelly will do July 26 when he reports to federal prison for a year.


Donnelly is paying a heavy price for his convictions, a price that few of us would be willing to make as a witness against the madness of war.


Patrick O’Neill is Cofounder of the Father Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker House in Garner, N.C., an intentional, pacifist Christian community that provides hospitality to women and children in crisis. He and Frank Donnelly have been friends for 28 years.


By Nok-Noi Ricker

BDN Staff


BANGOR, Maine — Lobster broker Francis “Frank” Donnelly, a Lamoine resident who sold approximately $2.9 million worth of crustaceans during 2003 and 2004, was sentenced Monday for filing false tax returns for those two years.


U.S. District Judge John Woodcock sentenced Donnelly, 64, to a year plus a day in federal prison, imposed a $3,000 fine and ordered him to pay $89,331 in back taxes.


While handing down Donnelly’s sentence, Woodcock said he didn’t believe the defendant’s claims that he didn’t pay all of his taxes for 2003 and 2004 because he is a war tax resister and opposes funding war activities.

“Mr. Donnelly is a common, ordinary, run-of-the-mill … tax cheat,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney James McCarthy, who prosecuted the case. “Now, after the fact, [Donnelly’s defense is] trying to hide behind the facade of the principle of war tax resister.”


About 35 local anti-war protesters stood in front of the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building just before the sentencing hearing began. At least two spoke in support of Donnelly, who has said he underreported his taxes because he opposes war and doesn’t want his tax dollars used to support “killing children.”

“For about 40 years Frank has decided not to pay for it [the cost of war],” said Larry Dansinger of Monroe. “It’s an option that the IRS calls tax fraud.”


A dozen of those supporters sat through the daylong sentencing hearing, which began at 9 a.m. and didn’t end until nearly 6 p.m. Most of the day was spent trying to determine exactly how much money Donnelly made during 2003 and 2004 — a process used by Woodcock to arrive at the amount of the defendant’s restitution and the length of his prison term.


After going back and forth for hours, Woodcock decided to use figures provided through an investigation by Internal Revenue Service special agent Debra Sousa, who said she used checks, bank figures and handwritten documents provided by Donnelly.

“He reported a net profit of $5,000 on gross sales of $1.3 million” for 2004, and made similar profit claims for 2003, Woodcock said.


Donnelly recorded in excess of $1.5 million in gross sales for 2003, the same year he purchased a vacation property in Costa Rica for $120,000, Sousa’s investigation showed.


To make things more difficult, the handwritten records provided by the defense had several items blacked out, which hindered

the investigation, the IRS investigator told the judge.


“In 2003, 12 transactions are redacted,” Sousa said. “In 2004, there are six transactions that are redacted.”


Those items were blacked out for Fifth Amendment reasons, because they could lead to other criminal charges, defense attorney Virginia Villa explained to the court.


Donnelly, who owns his Lamoine home, property in Florida and the Costa Rica condominium outright, is now receiving food stamps, gets low-income heating assistance and had the services of a court-appointed attorney, according to McCarthy and Woodcock.


When Donnelly pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court during November to filing false tax returns in 2003 and 2004, he admitted that he lied on his federal and state income tax returns.


Woodcock gave five basic reasons for the sentence he imposed and his reasons for not believing Donnelly’s claims of being a war tax resister. He said Donnelly never made his war tax protest public, he didn’t notify the IRS about his protest, he didn’t pay his state taxes, he benefited by not paying the full amount, and he is now getting benefits from other taxpayers.

Woodcock was especially peeved by Donnelly’s Costa Rica vacation property, which he did not claim when applying for his court-appointed lawyer.


“That is not, in my view, an action of a moral human being,” the judge said.


Three of Donnelly’s supporters and Donnelly himself spoke to the court before Woodcock issued his sentence. His friends said he gives back to his community and should be shown leniency. Donnelly, who served in a military reserve unit during the Vietnam War, went AWOL — or absent without leave — in 1971, and refused to wear his uniform, according to his supporters. He was eventually court-martialed and discharged from the military, they said.


“I regret not being forthright in my war tax resistance,” Donnelly told the judge. “This is not new to me.”


Donnelly told a psychologist in 1975 that he didn’t want to pay taxes to support war, according to Villa.


“The prosecution says I’m a wealthy man,” he said to the judge. “I’m not a wealthy man. There was a couple of years where I made some money. I was chasing the American Dream.”


Donnelly must report to a federal prison, to be determined by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, on July 26.




Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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