A tax protester has been held in federal prison for contempt of court more than a year after he refused to respond to an IRS summons, the Dallas News reports.
Federal court reported the summons was issued by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Conner ordering Ronald Conner, a 55-year-old truck driver, to answer questions about his finances and provide records to begin the collection process.
Conner claims he is a sovereign citizen. He says, “I won’t give them nothing now that I know the truth.”
Sovereign citizen ideology is a part of an anti-government movement rising out of opposition to federal income taxes, according to the Anti- Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
The IRS says Connor owes more than $174,000, the News reported. The summons declares his tax liabilities are for the years 2005 and 2007-2013.
Federal law sets an 18-month limit for how long someone can be jailed for civil contempt.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tami C. Parker said she would like Conner’s jail stay to continue. She cited cases in which people have spent years behind bars for civil contempt including one in New York federal court in which an investment manager sat behind bars for seven years for refusing to turn over $15 million in gold and antiquities.
“It isn’t clear from the government’s paper how it can seek continued incarceration after the 18-month period has lapsed,” said Paul A. Avon, a Florida attorney whose specialty is civil contempt cases.
Connor says he has nothing to lose.
He was divorced in 2012. The divorce decree says he was awarded 50 percent of his ex-wife’s retirement benefits from Southwest Airlines, a 2006 semi-trailer, and a 1994 Lexus sedan.
Court reporter Kevin Kause said, “The amount of money is considered small compared to most civil contempt cases that involved substantial assets like divorce cases and other lawsuits.”
Sherita Knight, one of Conner’s ex-wives, said while they were married he never had anti-government or anti-tax views.
“This is crazy,” she said, “It’s bizarre.”
“Conner has the right to refuse to testify against himself,” said Matthew Orwig, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.
On the witness stand, Conner said his position would not change. He answered a few basic questions from prosecutor Parker, then pled the 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
“No one wants to pay taxes. But they were legally assessed,” Parker stated.
She says the U.S. attorney’s office is not contemplating criminal charges against Conner, and they just want him to cooperate. She said the civil contempt law would lose its teeth if someone is allowed to ignore a court order.