December 19, 2011
DENVER _ The many faces of anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce were on full display Monday for jurors as he testified in his own defense in his tax evasion trial.
Bruce railed against fees prosecutors charged him for grand jury documents. He complained about the trial not being held in El Paso County. And he grew emotional when talking about his late mother.
But his six hours of testimony seemed to do little more than anger the judge and make jurors’ eyes glaze over. Bruce is acting as his own attorney.
“I have a reputation, partially deserved, for being abrasive, abrupt or whatever…” Bruce told jurors. “I hope that you won’t be off-put and will decide the case on the facts.”
But the facts were hard to discern. Bruce and the prosecutors and judge seemed to be following different rules of evidence and testimony.
Few of the reams of documents Bruce submitted, including a copy of the U.S. Constitution signed by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, were allowed to become evidence. And most of his statements drew objections as hearsay or argument.
Judge Anne Mansfield clearly was frustrated by Bruce's antics. She was seen frequently rolling her eyes and she scolded him.
“You haven’t even started on what I assume is your testimony,” Mansfield told Bruce after five hours on the witness stand. “The jury has been very patient, but they will lose their patience.”
Bruce is a former El Paso County commissioner and state lawmaker who authored Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
The state Attorney General’s Office says he illegally funneled his 2005-2007 salary as a county commissioner to Active Citizens Together, a charity he founded and used as a political machine, and that he didn’t pay taxes on that income.
The indictment alleges he earned $178,000 in interest from $2 million in loans he made to ACT and didn’t disclose the income.
If convicted of all the charges, he could spend 12.5 years in prison and be fined $700,000.
Bruce denied making any money off ACT and said he was being unfairly targeted.
“I was not treated the way other people are treated and given the same opportunities under the law other people have,” he said.
He grew emotional when talking about his mother, and the fact she signed a $2 million check from him to ACT. She was dying, he said.
“So I wanted to give her the thrill of signing a $2 million check. She was a retired school-teacher living on a pension,” said Bruce, choking up.
But if that generated any sympathy for Bruce, it didn’t show on the bored, stony faces of jurors by the end of the long day.
The judge accused Bruce of needless delays.
“You are losing your audience, it would appear, when you drone on,” she said, warning him that stalling will do no good.
Testimony began in the trial on Dec. 9. Mansfield said the case would go to the jury Tuesday, regardless of further delays.