Monday, August 8, 2016

State Rep. Armstrong guilty of filing false tax return; Democrats seeking replacement for November election

Joe Armstrong
Four days after winning the Democratic Primary, a federal grand jury found long-time state Rep. Joe Armstrong guilty of filing a false and fraudulent tax return.

The jury, however, declined to convict the veteran lawmaker on two other charges: conspiracy to defraud the United States, and attempting to evade and defeat taxes.

Those two offenses carried stiffer penalties - each as much as five years behind bars. Filing a fraudulent tax return, which is a felony, carries up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

"We certainly think there was enough evidence to convict him of count one and count two but we’re very pleased with a conviction on count three," said Assistant U.S. District Attorney Chuck Atchley. "It’s a felony. He’s now a convicted felon."

Atchley said he will seek prison time for the lawmaker.

In addition, the prosecutor said, Armstrong "still owes the taxes and he’s still going to be accountable for the tax laws."

Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips sent a Nov. 30 sentencing hearing.

Armstrong and his attorney, Gregory P. Isaacs, left immediately after the verdict was announced.

In a released statement, Isaacs said: “State Rep. Joe Armstrong wants to thank all of his family, friends and constituents for their prayers and support throughout this process. Representative Armstrong is evaluating all of his available options at this time.”  

Armstrong faces an independent challengers in the November election, but that's not going to happen, according to state officials.

Secretary of State spokesman Adam Ghassemi said the felony conviction automatically disqualifies Armstrong from seeking re-election. He said the Democratic Party now has until Sept. 29 to nominate another candidate for the Nov. 8 general election.

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini said the party is already looking into a replacement.

“As we have said from the start, this is a legal matter that is best left to our justice system," Mancini said ina released statement. "The justice system has now ruled and we will take whatever appropriate action necessary to remove Rep. Armstrong from office and replace him on the ballot in November.”

Armstrong spent most of last week in U.S. District Court on trial.

Rest of story HERE.

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