Gary councilman sentenced to prison
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org April 1, 2014 11:50AM
Ronier Scott, a member of the Gary City Council, was sentenced to three months in prison for failing to file federal income tax returns. | Post-Tribune File Photo
Updated: May 3, 2014 6:20AM
Gary City Councilman Ronier Scott will serve three months in federal prison for income tax evasion after a federal judge said Tuesday that the five-month term requested by his lawyer and prosecutors was too much.
U.S. Magistrate John Martin also denied the government’s request that Scott serve another five months on home confinement, ordering him instead to perform 400 hours of community service.
“Just being at home, that’s wasted time,” Martin said, adding that he would rather the community benefit from Scott’s punishment.
Scott, a councilman since 2004, pleaded guilty last year to two misdemeanor counts of not filing his 2008 and 2009 income tax returns.
He and prosecutors had agreed in his plea deal to ask for the minimum sentence under federal sentencing guidelines, which was 10 to 16 months, half of which could be served in home confinement.
But Martin said the mitigating factors in Scott’s case — including his service as a councilman, no prior criminal record and his being the sole provider for his wife and four children — outweighed the aggravating factors of the case.
“I do find the guidelines missed the mark just a bit,” he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Bell argued against the shorter prison time, saying that although Scott was charged with just two counts of not filing tax returns, he also didn’t file them from 2000 to 2003 and underreported his income in other years during the past decade. The only years where he filed a return apparently were those when he expected a refund, Bell said.
“This man, who is a public official, simply refused to comply with the law for not one but many years,” he told Martin. “... He was picking and choosing (when to file).”
Bell also noted that Scott had not apologized when he spoke to the judge.
Scott did tell Martin that he was working on paying back his debt to the IRS and had paid $50 a month since October for a total of $250. The total loss is $33,240.
His attorney, Kerry Connor, said that while Scott might not have apologized in court, he had apologized in a letter he sent to Martin.
Martin agreed with the government that Scott should be held to a higher standard because he’s a public official who broke the law.
“You’ve set a terrible example,” he told Scott.
However, Martin said most misdemeanor cases don’t include prison time, and three months was enough to send a message without being too harsh. No restitution was ordered as the IRS can order that on its own.
Because the sentence is less than a year, Scott does not automatically lose his council seat but will not get credit for good behavior and will serve the full three months. He’s to report to prison May 6.
“Mr. Scott accepts full responsibility for what he did and is saddened to leave his family and constituents for a short period of time,” Connor said after the sentencing hearing. “However, we’re grateful the court evaluated the circumstances and sentenced Mr. Scott to three months in custody instead of the maximum two years he could have faced.”