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Tax protester gets 2 1/2 years in prison

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A longtime tax protester is in prison for trying to pay $3 million in federal tax debts with phony checks.

Leonard Shryl Brown, 73, pleaded guilty in July to one count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS and one count of mail fraud in exchange for a 2 1/2-year prison sentence.

He was sentenced Tuesday along with his son, Kevin Leonard Brown, and daughter-in-law. They received lesser sentences for their role in the scheme, in which they received 10 bogus checks from leaders of the Montana Freemen, an extremist anti-government group.

But Brown on Tuesday tried to convince U.S. District Judge Dee Benson that he did not fully understand the impact of accepting the plea agreement. He offered 23 reasons why his guilty plea should be set aside, all of which Benson denied.

"That plea was knowing, it was voluntary, it was accepted," Benson said. "It was something that you chose to do in my presence. I would have been more than happy to provide you with a jury trial, it was your constitutional right.

"There is something to be said for honoring our commitments."

The retired Richfield dentist also filed a flurry of motions before Tuesday's hearing, without the assistance of his court-appointed attorney, including a motion to dismiss the case in its entirety. Benson denied all of the motions, referring to them as a "rash of disjointed and, frankly, mostly frivolous filings."

Brown repeatedly pushed Benson to explain his legal reasoning for the denials.

"Mr. Brown, you are making a mockery of this process," Benson said. "Don't try my patience, please."

Brown and his son obtained the false checks after traveling to an eastern Montana ranch to meet with Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer. Schweitzer is now serving a 22 1/2-year federal prison sentence for trying to undermine the nation's banking system by issuing thousands of bogus checks totaling billions of dollars.

In addition to passing the bogus checks to the IRS, Brown reportedly gave a $480,000 check to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah and one for $9,000 to pay off a personal debt.

Kevin and Jodilyn Brown pleaded guilty to writing a false check for nearly $73,000 to pay off their tax debts and get money in refunds.

Benson on Tuesday sentenced Kevin Leonard Brown to five months in prison followed by five months home confinement. Jodilyn Brown was ordered to serve 10 months home confinement. She said they had repaid $30,000 in back state income taxes.

Leonard Brown was released from state custody in July 1998 after serving two years of a possible 25-year prison term for his conviction on five counts of failing to file a tax return from 1988 to 1992. He also served nine months in prison for a 1976 conviction of federal tax evasion.

E-MAIL: awelling@desnews.com