DENVER (AP/CBS4) — Colorado’s best-known tax fighter lived up to his cantankerous reputation Friday in a criminal case against him, getting his bond halved in an arraignment hearing and taking the prosecutor to task for trying to charge him thousands to see evidence against him.
Douglas Bruce of Colorado Springs faces charges of felony tax evasion and bribery for allegedly skirting taxes several years ago. In an arraignment hearing Friday in Denver, Judge Anne M. Mansfield gave Bruce a delay until July 11 to review the evidence against him.
Mansfield also halved Bruce’s bond from $10,000 to $5,000 after he argued that he has close ties to Colorado and won’t avoid court dates.
Bruce is accused of failing to declare $178,000 in interest earned on more than $2 million that he deposited into a bank account for Active Citizens Together, a nonprofit he established in 2001.
“You can’t have tax evasion if you don’t owe taxes and you don’t owe taxes if you have more deductions than you have to cover it,” said Bruce.
Bruce, a former state lawmaker, engineered the Colorado campaign for a 1992 state constitutional amendment that limits the government’s ability to tax and spend. The Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights has been applauded by some conservatives but is often criticized because it creates spending limits that do not adjust for rising productivity.
For the last few years, Bruce has remained a thorn in the side of government officials. Throughout Friday’s hearing, he interrupted the judge and loudly sighed when Colorado assistant attorney general Rob Shapiro talked.
Bruce chided the court for trying to enter a not guilty plea for him. He also accused Shapiro’s office of wrongly trying to charge him more than $5,000 to see evidence against him if he doesn’t want to travel to Denver to review the 21,000 pages in person.
“You might as well charge me for the right to a jury trial. It is not permissible to charge someone that much money,” Bruce complained, saying it would take him weeks to review the documents in person. Mansfield ordered Shapiro to produce electronic copies of the files by Monday and charge Bruce only the cost of the disks
Bruce and the prosecutor sniped throughout the hearing. Shapiro accused Bruce of being rude to a paralegal, while Bruce said that state prosecutors have been trying to build a criminal case against him for eight years. An exasperated Mansfield at one point held up her hand to stop the bickering and told both sides, “I am not interested in either of your agendas, quite frankly.”
After giving Bruce another month to review the evidence, Mansfield warned that her patience won’t last long.
“I am not going to wait interminably” for Bruce to review the documents, Mansfield said.
Bruce told reporters after the hearing that the charges against him are groundless and politically motivated.
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