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Duke sentenced to 15 months


ReligionNewsBlog.com • Thursday March 13, 2003

Associated Press, Mar. 12, 2003
http://www.wilmingtonstar.com/
By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Writer

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke got the sentence agreed to in a plea bargain on a tax and a mail fraud charge – 15 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Duke, 52, must report to prison by noon April 15; the Federal Bureau of Prisons will decide which prison, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon read Duke’s sentence without comment.

Duke, a former state representative in Louisiana, must pay the fine immediately and must cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service, including payment of the money he owes on his 1998 taxes, Letten said.

Just how much, if any, Duke owes will be hashed out between the IRS and Duke’s accountant, said James McPherson, Duke’s longtime lawyer and friend.

“I don’t know, David doesn’t know and the IRS doesn’t know” the amount, McPherson said.

He said Duke’s financial records for 1998 were seized by the FBI and that they would be turned over to Duke’s accountant to assess.

Duke pleaded guilty on Dec. 18, 2002, to falsely reporting a gross income of $18,831 in 1998, rather than the actual $65,034.

“I don’t think we will owe anything,” Duke said.

In brief comments to reporters after his sentencing, Duke said he would speak more freely about the investigation and charges against him after his release from prison in 2004.

“When I’m out of the jaws of the federal government I’ll have a lot to say,” Duke said, accompanied by two daughters and a granddaughter.

Asked what he will do in prison, Duke said, “I want to continue my life’s work – my reading, my research.”

Cutting a deal with the federal government was in the Duke’s “best interests,” in large part because a jury trial would have been held in predominantly black New Orleans, McPherson said.

“It would be very difficult for an African-American to put aside any bias against anyone who has been associated with the Klan,” McPherson said. “The problem with going to trial is that you can lose.”

The mail fraud charge grew out of what prosecutors described as a six-year scheme between 1993 and 1999 to bilk thousands of followers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars through a direct mail campaign.

Federal prosecutors have not said exactly how much Duke is accused of bilking.

“These mailings were based on misleading information concerning his financial status and his intended use of the money he sought,” Letten said.

Duke told supporters that he was in danger of losing his home and savings. But prosecutors said he sold his home for a profit during that period, held numerous investment accounts and gambled away much of his take at casinos in Mississippi, Las Vegas and the Bahamas.

Had it gone to trial, McPherson said he would have argued that the government would have found it difficult to link the mail campaign to money he received from supporters.

“It would have been difficult to show where the contributions came from,” McPherson said.

As part of the sentence, the government may put Duke into a gambling addiction recovery program, if authorities feel it would help him, Letten said.

McPherson said Duke has told him he has not gone to a casino in four years. “So he doesn’t have a problem.”

An investigation into Duke’s finances became public in 1999, soon after he finished third in a nine-candidate primary for Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District seat.

Letten has said that Duke’s sentence is in line with federal guidelines. It had been scheduled a week later; Duke asked for it to be moved up.

Those guidelines require that he serve at least 85 percent of that time in prison.

“You can get 15 percent off the sentence for good behavior,” McPherson said.

In addition, Letten said, Duke will be on two years inactive supervised release – meaning that he may leave the country – after he gets out. As a felon, he cannot legally own a gun.

Prison life for Duke should be safe, McPherson said.

“I was originally concerned about his safety, but I have talked to the Bureau of Prisons and I have been assured that his security will be looked after,” McPherson said.

Duke has antagonized blacks and Jews with his speeches and writings.

Duke spent several years abroad, mostly in Russia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. He was in Moscow in 2000 when federal agents raided his Mandeville home.

He returned late last year to visit his ailing father and to negotiate a plea agreement.

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