Updated: December 20, 2011 at 12:00 am
DENVER • The fate of anti-tax advocate Douglas Bruce will be in the hands of a jury Wednesday, after testimony in his trial on tax-evasion charges wrapped up Tuesday in a Denver courtroom.
Bruce and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office will make their closing arguments Wednesday morning. He faces up to 12 years in prison and $700,000 in fines if convicted.
Prosecutors say Bruce illegally channeled his 2005-2007 salary as an El Paso County commissioner to Active Citizens Together, a charity he founded and used to distribute copies of the U.S. Constitution and push his political ideas. State officials also claim he earned $178,000 in interest from $2 million in loans he made to ACT and didn’t disclose the income.
Bruce has maintained to reporters during the trial that the amount he owes in state taxes is $129. An investigator for the Colorado Department of Revenue testified Tuesday Bruce owes $10,722.
“ACT was in my opinion a fraud and an extension of Mr. Bruce’s account ,so I felt the interest should be taxable for Mr. Bruce,” said Colorado Department of Revenue investigator Charles Schlaufman, who calculated what the state says Bruce owes. “ACT was … a fraud and all for lobbying anyway. If you make a contribution for lobbying it’s not deductible.”
Bruce, acting as his own attorney, repeated many times his argument that money he got from ACT was repayment of a loan he made to the organization.
“The legal principle that has been stated here many times is that money that has been returned to the lender is not income,” he said.
He spent hours defending himself from prosecutors’ claims that ACT was essentially his bank account, and that real-estate transactions conducted by ACT and its officers were to benefit him.
“I know what a key employee is in plain English and I don’t believe you can be an employee if you’re a volunteer,” he testified.
If ACT was a charity for educating the public, one juror asked, why did it send out a flier urging “yes” on a recent spate of anti-tax ballot measures.
“It was meant to educate the public but there’s no prohibition to saying ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” he said.
Bruce grew frustrated numerous times throughout the day, as prosecutors objected to his testimony and questioning as arguments rather than facts. Bruce is a former attorney but no longer licensed to practice law.
He will have his chance to argue today.
Judge Anne Mansfield, who has been repeatedly tangled with Bruce during the eight-day trial, limited Bruce and prosecutors to 25 minutes of closing arguments, to begin at 8 a.m.
Bruce asked her, didn’t she have vacation scheduled for the rest of the week?
“I’m not on vacation,” she said. “I’ll be here with you.