Presque Isle lawyer “held to higher standard,” given 10 days jail for not paying taxes

Lawyer Alan Harding will serve 10 days in jail for not paying his state taxes. So far, Harding has paid his 2004 through 2009 taxes that he owed the state, but he still isn’t current.
Heather Steeves | BDN
Lawyer Alan Harding will serve 10 days in jail for not paying his state taxes. So far, Harding has paid his 2004 through 2009 taxes that he owed the state, but he still isn’t current.
By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 30, 2011, at 5:18 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A Presque Isle lawyer will serve 10 days in jail for not paying his taxes.

Alan Harding, 58, pleaded guilty in June to not filing and paying about $100,000 in state income taxes over a six-year period ending in 2009.

On Friday, Kennebec County Superior Court Justice Donald Marden sentenced the still-practicing attorney to serve 120 days in jail with all but 10 of those days suspended. Harding also will serve one year of administrative release and must pay all his taxes.

“I have to hold you to a higher standard,” Marden told Harding in court. “An attorney knows the law.”

Marden said people in Maine become outraged when someone who takes an oath to uphold the law doesn’t.

“An example must be set,” Marden said.

In the months since he was charged, Harding has filed and paid the 2004 through 2009 taxes that he owed the state, but he still isn’t current, according to prosecutor Gregg Bernstein, an assistant attorney general.

“Mr. Harding is continuing to break the law. He still hasn’t paid his 2010 taxes,” Bernstein said in court Friday.

Harding’s attorney Walter McKee said this was because his client recently had to pay more than $100,000 to the state and more than that to the federal government. To pay that money, Harding had to liquidate several of his assets, which McKee wouldn’t name. McKee also wouldn’t say how much his client owed the federal government, but did say the amount is now paid and the federal government has not threatened legal action.

According to Bernstein, Harding’s salary in the past eight years has fluctuated between $140,000 and $225,000 per year. He made $170,000 in 2010, according to Bernstein.

“He’s relatively well off. He should do what every other Maine resident has to do,” Bernstein said in court Friday.

But until recently Harding hadn’t paid his taxes all the way back to 2001, the prosecutor said. Because the statute of limitations is six years, Maine couldn’t prosecute violations before 2004, Bernstein said.

Harding defended himself by saying his trouble started in the early 2000s when he lost his longtime business manager. His life became more complicated as family health issues burdened him further. In fact, he said he was in a hospital trying to convince his paraplegic brother to amputate his leg in order save his life when Harding got the call saying he was being charged for not filing and paying his taxes.

Many people testified on Harding’s behalf during the sentencing hearing, telling the court that he is a good man who does a lot for his community and often takes on pro bono work for poor clients.

“He has never taken a vacation. He’s had nothing but a weekend from time to time in the summer. He’s a bona fide workaholic,” said Robley Morrison, a Fort Fairfield psychologist Harding has spoken to about his problems. According to Morrison, Harding just got overwhelmed and had to let some things slip.

“There was this one part of his life he set aside so that the rest of his life could function,” Morrison said.

The state fought this argument.

“It’s not a case of [Harding] being overwhelmed by circumstance,” Bernstein said. “He was running a successful business.”

Ultimately, Harding accepted the blame and said he wouldn’t fight the justice’s decision.

“It’s I alone who deserves the blame,” Harding said in his testimony Friday. “This has been the most humiliating time of my life.”

The lawyer will serve his jail time in Aroostook County Jail starting Dec. 27.

Harding also faces hearings on Nov. 2 and 3 in front of the Supreme Judicial Court in Bangor to determine if he should be further disciplined as an attorney. That discipline could range from a small fine to the revocation of his license to practice law.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/09/30/news/court/presque-isle-lawyer-held-to-higher-standard-given-10-days-in-jail-for-not-paying-taxes/ printed on November 22, 2014