FAIRBANKS — A Salcha couple accused of an elaborate murder conspiracy plot plans to continue fighting a federal tax case against them, a move they say goes against the wishes of their criminal attorneys.
Lonnie and Karen Vernon filed papers in U.S. District Court on April 20 that asks for a more complete rebuttal to their arguments against paying federal taxes. Up to this point, they wrote that the entire case has “been nothing more than a judicial lynching.”
The Vernons have represented themselves throughout the tax case. They said in the court filing that they were instructed by criminal defense attorneys not to file their latest response, “but the Vernons have decided to pursue this case anyway.”
Defense attorneys Jennifer Hite and Susan Carney, who represent the Vernons on state charges related to the plot, couldn’t be reached Tuesday afternoon to comment.
The Vernons are accused of being part of a plot that includes plans to kill an IRS agent and U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline, who oversaw their tax case until soon after their March arrest by state and federal authorities.
Federal criminal prosecutors say the plot was fueled by anger over the long-running tax dispute.
The U.S. Department of Justice accuses the Vernons of owing a combined $166,000 in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties. The Vernons have battled the Internal Revenue Service over the debt for more than a decade, and a foreclosure lien was placed on their $180,000 home in 2008.
The Justice Department launched a civil tax case against the Vernons in 2009.
In previous filings, the Vernons submitted lengthy documents with numerous court citations. They argued that the IRS doesn’t have legal authority to collect taxes since that authorization was never properly published in the Federal Register.
Beistline called the arguments “entirely without merit” in a response. The Vernons said in the April 20 filing that his rulings are flawed due to Beistline’s unfamiliarity with the complexities of federal tax law.
The filing also said federal prosecutor Steven Johnson was “resorting to misinformation which rises to fraud” in court.
The Vernons say in the documents that the rejection of their arguments wasn’t specific and didn’t give them enough information to respond. They ask for a more thorough response from a judge before a summary judgment is made.
The case is before Washington state Judge Lonny R. Suko, who took over the case from Beistline on March 29. Following the objection by the Vernons, Suko’s next step is to rule on the request for summary judgment by the Department of Justice.
Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.