Charles Sidney "Chuck" Gibson II, a prominent attorney in Dermott and a former Chicot County district judge, was sentenced Wednesday to three years' probation after pleading guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge of failing to pay more than $300,000 in income taxes between 2010 and 2012.
Gibson and his attorney, Rick Holiman of Little Rock, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerome Kearney for a simultaneous plea and sentence, asking Kearney to impose a three-year probationary sentence they had negotiated with the U.S. attorney's office.
Kearney, noting that he was a federal public defender before becoming a magistrate judge, appeared skeptical about the agreement, telling the parties that he had represented defendants in similar cases and "almost never did I get a deal like this."
He recalled that when he had clients accused of failing to pay such a large amount of income taxes, they would generally face a felony tax-evasion charge, but, "By getting a misdemeanor charge, this allows you to keep your law license."
Kearney said he was "also aware," from reading a confidential pre-sentence report prepared for the court, that "there were other years," going back to 2007, in which Gibson didn't pay his income taxes. The judge noted, as he tried to decide whether to approve the agreement, that he was "having a problem" with the fact that Gibson was not only a longtime attorney but had also been a district judge.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jana Harris told the judge that "tax evasion wasn't charged," and that charging decisions in her office are also reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice. She said the only other similar case, which she had prosecuted years earlier, resulted in a three-year probationary sentence for a tax loss of more than $400,000.
Kearney mulled over the situation, noting that if Gibson had been charged with tax evasion, a felony, he would be looking at a possible prison term of 18 to 24 months, while by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, he faced a maximum 12 months behind bars.
Ultimately, he said, "I will go along with the agreement, but I don't like it. I don't think very many people in this situation get this same type of deal."
With that, he sentenced Gibson to three years' probation and ordered him to pay restitution of $344,162, but he also added conditions requiring Gibson to perform 200 hours of community service work and abstain from alcohol during the probationary period, as well as serve six months of the probation on home detention with electronic monitoring, which will allow him to work in his law office but will otherwise restrict his freedom.
At the beginning of the hearing, Holiman told the judge, "This man is a bad drinker," which he said "probably had a lot to do with it." He also called Gibson "one of the best lawyers around," and said he remains in practice in Dermott with his elderly father, Charles Sidney Gibson, who relies on him extensively.
Gibson also addressed the judge, saying his father had a stroke years ago and "I have to oversee everything he does. If I'm not there, he's not going to make it." He said his mother has dementia, and, "If I'm not there, no doubt they'll end up in a nursing home."
Kearney asked Gibson why he didn't pay his taxes, and Gibson replied that depression was to blame.
"Because of that, I became addicted to alcohol and things just seemed different in that state of mind," he said, adding that the alcohol addiction "snuck up on me" and "I perceived things differently, perhaps irrationally."
In response to a question from Kearney, Gibson agreed that he made a lot of money at the time, but said most of it went to pay family debts on land.
"I thought I could carry everybody's problems, but I couldn't," he said.
Metro on 11/29/2018
Print Headline: Prominent Arkansas attorney gets probation for failing to pay $300,000+ in taxes; judge says he doesn't like agreement