Three defense witnesses have testified that a government star witness in the federal income tax evasion trial of Bel Air attorney Lester V. Jones is a liar.
The defense then rested its case after half an hour yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
The prosecution rested earlier yesterday, after presenting testimony from an IRS agent that Jones cheated the government out of nearly $200,000 in taxes in the early 1980s by failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxable income.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday in the 2 1/2 -week-old trial.
Jones is a former state prosecutor and delegate charged with evading taxes and filing false amended returns for 1983 and 1984. He did not testify in his own defense.
Instead, defense attorney Stephen H. Sachs sought to destroy the credibility of Ronald Dochter, Jones' former tax accountant, who testified for the government last week.
The defense blames Dochter for the massive mistakes on the defendant's tax returns that led to Jones' indictment on the felony charges, and contends that the accountant has a history of making professional mistakes and lying to cover them up.
Dochter admitted during his testimony that he made numerous errors in preparing Jones' returns, but claimed he had gotten all the financial information for those returns from Jones and his secretary. The defense contends that the accountant was given bank records and other information he needed to prepare accurate returns for Jones, but ignored it.
The first defense witness, Eugene P. "Pete" Twardowicz, a noted financial investigator who is working for Jones in this case, told the jury that Dochter "changed his story very quickly, he backed down" when Twardowicz asked him in May to explain a mere $232 in taxable income reported on one of Jones' old tax forms.
Twardowicz, who worked for more than 25 years for the IRS and Justice Department as a tax-fraud expert, testified that Dochter claimed to have gotten five of Jones' old tax returns so he could track the lawyer's income-averaging deductions.
The investigator said that later in the interview Dochter reversed himself and said, "I might have gotten the information from Jones by telephone."
Twardowicz also said Dochter attributed to "a computer error" the same $232 figure on a subsequent year's tax form.
Mary M. Brown, of Fallston, testified that Dochter made an error on tax forms he prepared for her and her husband, Earl, that cost them $950 in back taxes and interest. She said she had given Dochter an IRS form that reported income which Dochter failed to declare, and that Dochter later claimed he had never received the form.
The final defense witness, Maryland District Judge John S. Landbeck Jr., who awarded the Browns $1,200 in a civil suit against Dochter, testified that the Bel Air accountant "does not enjoy an exemplary reputation in Harford County."
"Quite candidly, I'd have to say Mr. Dochter is a liar," Judge Landbeck said.
Earlier yesterday, IRS Agent Joseph R. Dengler testified for the prosecution that Jones failed to report more than $660,000 in taxable income on his 1982-84 returns and owed the government $198,803 in additional taxes for those years.
On cross-examination by Sachs, Dengler acknowledged that he did not credit Jones with legitimate tax deductions for money he paid associate lawyers in cash for legal fees they split.
The agent also acknowledged that Jones had deposited most of the alleged unreported income in bank accounts where IRS auditors and agents later traced it, in part through records that Jones voluntarily gave them.