Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Jinwright trial underway

Posted By on Wed, Apr 7, 2010 at 9:35 AM

It took most of the day, but the eight attorneys involved in the Anthony and Harriet Jinwright tax evasion trial managed to narrow down a pool of 60 jurors to 15 yesterday — nine women and five men; 10 whites and five blacks.

The Jinwrights, heads of the Greater Salem City of God in west Charlotte, are charged with tax evasion, conspiracy to defraud the IRS and filing false tax returns. Prosecutors allege they currently owe the government $85,000, but the couple say they can't afford to pay. In fact, while Bishop Jinwright is represented by a top law firm, Harriet Jinwright was declared indigent and is being represented by public defenders.

Some might find it ironic that anyone involved in a marriage that included the acquisition of 18 luxury cars within a six-year period, including a Bentley and a Rolls Royce, could be declared indigent while still living the high life. (By the way, according to Dictionary.com, indigent is defined as: lacking food, clothing, and other necessities of life because of poverty; needy; poor; impoverished.) Others might be angry that any pastor makes millions of dollars while the city's homeless population swells.

But, those judgments don't matter in this case. What does matter is simple: How much money did the Jinwrights actually make, did they report it and do they owe back taxes?

Other issues to watch, from Qcitymetro.com:

What constitutes income for a preacher?

If church members pass a collection plate and give the money directly to the pastor, is that considered income? What if members collect the money outside the church?

After the jury was sent home for the day, prosecutors and defense lawyers spent time arguing that point of law.

Prosecutors insisted that the money should be counted as income in either case. Defense lawyers disagreed, saying church members have a right to make personal gifts to their pastor, which would not be counted as income.

Judge Whitney said he would rule as evidence is presented.

Get the low down on yesterday's jury selection process from Qcitymetro.com here and the back story on the Jinwright's trial here.

Opening arguments are this morning. The case is expected to last for two to three weeks. If found guilty, they could face up to 100 years in prison.

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