Monday, August 1, 2016

Armstrong to testify in his defense

Joe Armstrong
The federal criminal trial for state Rep. Joe Armstrong – accused of tax evasion – begins Tuesday morning and the Knoxville Democrat is expected to testify in his own defense.

During a 30-minute hearing on Monday, attorneys for both sides hammered out a number of details before U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Phillips.

Among them:
  • Attorneys will get up to 45 minutes for opening arguments.
  • The 12 jurors will be selected from a pool of 65 to 70 East Tennessee residents.
  • Witnesses more than likely will testify only about the facts of the case and probably not touch on Armstrong’s character.
  • The case will last about a week.
  • Prosecutors can force Armstrong’s wife to testify so long as they don’t violate the marital privilege of confidentiality.
Prosecutors allege the longtime East Knoxville Democrat used his position to buy state cigarette tax stamps some 8-10 years ago before an increase was passed by the state Legislature. He then sold them for a profit, they allege, and failed to claim tens of thousands of dollars of the income on his taxes.

The government alleges he had help from his accountant and an unindicted co-conspirator.

The defense counters that Armstrong used a tax preparer and had no intent to defraud the government.

Armstrong, who is charged with conspiracy to defraud the federal government and tax evasion, has continued to serve in the state Legislature while his case is litigated in federal court.

He is up for election this year but faces no opponent in Thursday’s primary.

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