Councilman Daryl D. Jones, a Democrat from Severn who is a practicing criminal defense attorney, was also sentenced to one year of supervised probation and six months of home detention during an emotionally charged hearing held in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
"I'm an extremely proud person," he said. "I believe in taking care of whatever responsibilities I have. My biggest weakness is to not reach out and ask for help."
Judge Ellen L. Hollander called the sentence "very lenient" and said she weighed Jones' long career of public service and the many letters of support she received with a need for a punishment that "reflects the seriousness" of the crime.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Bockin lobbied for a year in prison — the maximum sentence for the misdemeanor under federal sentencing guidelines. Jones' attorney, Andrew C. White, requested probation, pointing to his client's lack of a previous criminal record and the councilman's good standing in the community.
"I struggle, however, because you failed to file ... not one year, not two years, … but five years," said Hollander. She added, "I don't know anyone who doesn't have problems. But can that be an excuse … when you so successfully managed other parts of your life?"
Scores of supporters — including fellow attorneys, politicians and constituents — flooded the courtroom in a strong show of support for the soft-spoken Jones, who is well-regarded in both Democratic and Republican circles.
Jones, who is in the first year of his second term on the council, faces an uncertain political future. The council has no power to remove him from office. Jones, who previously said he had no plans to step down, said after the hearing that he was "doing an assessment and then I'll decide."
Council Chairman Richard B. "Dick" Ladd said Monday that Jones — who is scheduled to report for prison on Jan. 23 — should step down. The Republican said, "I don't think it's right for his constituents to be without representation for five months."
Councilman John J. Grasso, a Republican from Glen Burnie, said, "You can't operate on the council being gone for five months. … What is he going to do? Vote from jail? Text his vote to the chairman?"
Jones pleaded guilty in August to the charge that he failed to file both his personal and payroll taxes — 35 different returns — between 2002 and 2007.
According to prosecutors, Jones failed to file four personal income tax returns and 31 quarterly payroll tax returns for his businesses: a law office in Annapolis and a Glen Burnie tavern known as Dotson's Live, operated through an entity called F. Diamond Properties.
Under the plea agreement, Jones agreed to repay the government $108,369.57. While he has paid the total taxes due, he still owes $27,447.18 of penalities and interest. Jones' attorney said he advised his client to withhold payment on the fines until the amount can be double-checked.
A previous version of this story incorrectly described the timeline under which the county would have to hold an election if Jones resigned. The Sun regrets the error.