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Yagman Pleads `Innocent'

July 04, 2006|Joe Mozingo | Times Staff Writer

In characteristic form, Stephen Yagman, the pugnacious civil rights attorney who has challenged police conduct for nearly three decades, declared, "Presumed innocent," Monday when asked how he pleaded to federal charges of tax evasion, bankruptcy fraud and money laundering.

"Pleading 'not guilty' turns the presumption of innocence on its head in a way semantically favorable to the prosecution," Yagman told U.S. Magistrate Rosalyn M. Chapman in Los Angeles federal court. "Therefore, I plead, 'Presumed innocent.' "

Chapman recorded the plea as "not guilty."

Yagman called the 19 counts against him "politically motivated, retaliatory charges."

His attorneys have accused the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service of targeting Yagman because of two "successful battles" he won against the agencies, including a $650,000 judgment against the IRS.

U.S. attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek has refused to say what prompted the investigation, but denied that it was "motivated by political retribution or any other improper motive."

Yagman is charged with one count of attempting to evade taxes, one count of bankruptcy fraud and 17 counts of money laundering. The indictment alleges that he attempted to conceal his assets from bankruptcy trustees and evade a tax bill of $158,000.

If he is convicted, he faces up to five years in prison on each of the tax evasion and bankruptcy charges, and a maximum of 10 years on each of the money laundering counts.

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