Harris Trial Continues In Federal Court

WHEELING — The federal income tax violations trial of Wheeling Attorney Paul Harris continued Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Frederick P. Stamp.

Harris, who is charged with one count of income tax evasion and four counts of making and subscribing false tax returns, is representing himself. Wheeling Attorney Robert J. Gaudio is serving as standby counsel.

The prosecution’s case continued into the afternoon; there is no indication when it will rest.

Assistant U.S. attorneys Robert McWilliams Jr. of the Northern District of West Virginia, and Brian Samuels from Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.

Gaudio believes the prosecution’s case may continue through this week and possibly into early next week.

The April 2007 indictment alleges from 1998-2002, Harris was an attorney and a resident of Glen Allen, Va., who received income from his law practice and various business ventures. The indictment alleged that Harris filed income tax returns for the years 1995-2000 and 2002 that resulted in an assessed liability of $96,823.58, plus penalties and interest.

It also charges Harris made no payments on his tax liability until June 2004, and that prior to making his payments, he undertook a number of acts to conceal his ability to pay, including titling assets in others’ names and filing false income tax returns for the years 1997-2000. The indictment alleges Harris understated his business receipts on these four false returns.

The tax evasion count carries a potential penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised released and restitution. The four false tax return counts each carry a potential penalty of three years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution.

Harris’ decision to represent himself was the subject of an August hearing at which McWilliams said Harris should have standby counsel.

”There could be problems if he changes his mind at some point in the trial,” McWilliams said. ”He may take the stand and have to question himself.”

Harris told the court he hired Gaudio to serve as his standby counsel.

Wheeling is in one federal jurisdiction where attorneys who are defendants in a trial cannot have co-counsel whereby the accused and his attorney can play equal roles in the defense. A standby counsel can step in and take over the defense if the accused cannot continue.