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Government may rest today in Jinwright trial

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After 12 days of testimony, the government is expected to rest its case today in the federal tax-evasion trial of pastors Anthony and Harriet Jinwright.

In an effort to prove allegations that the Jinwrights failed to report about $1.8 million in taxable income between 2001 and 2007, the government has called dozens of witnesses and offered hundreds of financial documents as evidence. Now defense lawyers for the Jinwrights will get to present evidence and call witnesses of their own.

The Jinwrights, co-pastors of Greater Salem City of God, are not expected to testify.

No matter what time prosecutors wrap up today, defense witnesses aren’t expected before Tuesday. In fact, Judge Frank Whitney still must hear arguments from both sides concerning expert witnesses that the various defense teams have indicated they would like to call.

Those witnesses have not been named in open court, but lawyers representing Anthony Jinwright suggested in pre-trial hearings that they would like to call witnesses who would testify about what the defense has characterized as the confusing nature of U.S. tax law. Lawyers for Anthony Jinwright also suggested that they would like to call a professor of religion who would testify concerning the biblical underpinnings of Anthony Jinwright’s theology, especially as it relates to pastoral compensation.

Kevin Tate, Harriet Jinwright’s lead attorney, said in those same pre-trial hearings that he would like to steer clear of theological debate.

Whoever the proposed expert witnesses may be, prosecutors have asked Whitney to block their testimony. Government lawyers argued in pre-trial motions that allowing third parties to state in court that U.S. tax law is confusing would prejudice the jury, since that testimony would not address whether or not the Jinwrights themselves found tax law confusing. Prosecutors also have asked the judge to block theological debate.

In testimony Friday afternoon, Richard Dawson, a Charlotte accountant who filed the Jinwrights’ 2007 tax return, was shown a series of checks the couples received from Greater Salem that year. According to prosecutors, none of the income was included on the couple’s 2007 return.

In February 2007, according to the government, Anthony Jinwright received a $50,000 check from Greater Salem in honor of his pastoral anniversary. Exactly one month later, according to government documents, he received another $50,000 check, this one for “2006 annual increase.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Brown did not total the checks in court but said they added up to “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Dawson noted that the Jinwrights were already under federal investigation when they filed their 2007 return in October 2008.

Dawson said Harriet Jinwright supplied him with the financial information he used in preparing the return. He said he believed he filed a proper return based on the information he was given.

The government also presented evidence alleging that the Jinwrights on their 2007 tax return overstated by $20,000 the amount in charitable donations they gave to Greater Salem. The couple claimed almost $106,000 on their tax return, but church records showed $86,000, prosecutors alleged.

ISSUES TO WATCH:
---Who will be the government’s final witness in the Jinwright trial? Qcitymetro.com can’t say for certain, but in referring to that witness in court last week, prosecutors used the pronouns “she” and “her.”

---With the jury out of the room, Judge Whitney on Friday raised the specter of longer hours this week, and possibly even closing arguments on Saturday. “I’m not optimistic, if we run the schedule we’re running right now, that we’ll finish on Friday,” he said. Whitney said he anticipates that each side will need up to two hours for closing arguments and that he might need an equal amount of time for jury instructions.



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July 25, 2014
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