A Minneapolis lawyer has been sentenced to probation and ordered by a Ramsey County judge to start filing his tax returns, dating to 2012, in order to avoid incarceration.
William Bernard Butler, who has questioned the authority of the government to impose income taxes, was found guilty in March of failing to pay his state taxes in 2013 and 2014.
In her sentencing order, Judge Judith Tilsen said that Butler must file his 2012 state and federal tax return within 90 days of his sentence, which she imposed on May 8.
Butler, 55, must file his 2013 tax returns 30 days after that, and continue filing returns every 30 days for the years from 2014 to 2019.
Tilsen required Butler to send a copy of his returns to his probation officer. He will be on probation three years. He had faced up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each of the two felony counts.
Tilsen stayed a sentence of incarceration, but did not say how long it might be. Dennis Gerhardstein, a spokesman for the Ramsey County Attorney's Office, said in an e-mail, "If he does not comply, then we'll be looking at why he didn't comply, and how serious is the noncompliance, when considering how long his incarceration period will be."
Ramsey County prosecutors alleged in a criminal complaint that Butler last filed a tax return in 2008, listing "0" on every line, and had not filed a state tax return since.
There was evidence he deposited $1.3 million into his bank accounts between February 2012 and October 2013, according to the complaint. The Internal Revenue Service had determined his adjusted gross income was $385,233 in 2012 and $295,904 in 2013.
Butler did not testify at his trial but submitted excerpts from his blog about why he believed he did not have to pay taxes. He has also written articles characterizing the government's taxing authority as a "coercive power."
Butler was suspended from practicing law in 2015 by the Minnesota Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board. He has been denounced by federal and state district judges, sanctioned and held in contempt for filing frivolous lawsuits over house foreclosures, then failing to pay the fees and fines when he was sanctioned.