Longtime marijuana activist Paul Stanford today pleaded guilty in Salem to one count of Oregon personal income-tax evasion. Stanford agreed to a sentence of 18 months' probation and 160 hours of community service, putting an end to this round of harassment from the Oregon Attorney General's Office.
Stanford previously had stated he would be cleared of any wrong doing, but told The Associated Press that he instead took a "sweetheart deal" from prosecutors and accepted a misdemeanor charge of personal income tax evasion.
The charge stems from Stanford's failure to file a 2009 tax return. He was also accused of failing to file his 2008 return when he was indicted earlier this year. Officials discovered Stanford hadn't filed income taxes while targeting his organization for violating state and federal charity laws.
Both Stanford and the accountant, Paul Henry, say that authorities understood Stanford faced difficulties due to an alleged theft of years' worth of his clinics financial records. Stanford was on the verge of filing his tax returns, and authorities knew it, say Stanford and his accountant. But in January this year, they say, the Oregon Department of Justice suddenly grew hostile toward them for reasons unknown.
Stanford said he suspected his arrest was political payback for his years of organizing for cannabis legalization in Oregon. Attorney General John Kroger, who publicly opposes legalizing marijuana, stated firmly "paying taxes is not optional." Kroger's office prosecuted the case after Stanford was arrested in March.
The organization, founded in 1999, operates offices in nine states. It has helped more than 150,000 patients obtain state permits for medical marijuana. You can visit his site here.