Duchesne County couple's convictions reversed by Utah Supreme Court
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court has overturned a 2010 jury verdict in the case of a Duchesne County couple accused of failing to pay more than $3.1 million in state taxes.
Frank “Joe” Steed and Joan A. Steed were each convicted in September 2010 of engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony, and three counts on failure to render a proper tax return, a third-degree felony.
On Friday, the state's highest court reversed those convictions and ordered 3rd District Judge Robin Reese to enter a judgment of acquittal on all charges.
In their 27-page unanimous decision, the justices wrote that the prosecutors failed to present sufficient evidence to convict the Steeds of failing to file their taxes based on two of the three "intent alternatives" required by state law.
"The court should have submitted only the one remaining intent alternative to the jury," according to the Supreme Court decision.
Andrew Peterson, the assistant Utah attorney general who handled the appeal, said prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence for a conviction on the sole remaining intent alternative, but Reese declined to include it in the jury instructions.
The Steeds were accused of failing to submit accurate returns for the 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 tax years. The state also alleged that the couple used 21 bank accounts to transfer funds to nonexistent businesses to prevent an accurate assessment of their actual income — believed to exceed $20.5 million during the four-year period — and thus their tax liability.
Following their convictions, Reese ordered Frank Steed to serve a year in jail, plus six years probation and pay $10,122 in fines and interest. Joan Steed was ordered to serve 180 days in jail and six years of probation. She must also pay $280,595 in restitution and $140,298 in fines and interest.
Based on his initial reading of the Supreme Court ruling, Peterson said he doesn't anticipate filing a request for the justices to reconsider their opinion.
"It's a fairly standard analysis of jury instructions and the evidence produced at trial," he said. "I still remain confident in the original jury verdict."
A message left Friday evening for Max Wheeler, the Steeds' attorney, was not immediately returned.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: GeoffLiesik
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