The Words of the McKenzie Family

Appellate Judges Reserve Decision In Father's Tax Appeal

Hal McKenzie
March 1983
From the News World

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon's tax-fraud conviction should be thrown out because it was based on religious prejudice, an attorney for the Korean religious leader said March 23 before three appeals court justices in New York City.

The government in reply said there was "factual, legal and common-sense" support for the verdict, and that the trial uncovered "overwhelming evidence of guilt."

Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor and renowned authority on Constitutional law, said the government deliberately conducted a "trial by prejudice" against the Korean religious leader, committing grave constitutional errors. "The only possible way to remedy these errors is to reverse a verdict that was fundamentally unfair to Rev. Moon and represented an extraordinary depth of religious prejudice," Tribe said.

Tribe also said the jury trial "outcome was pre-determined" because of widespread prejudice against Rev. Moon in society and in the jury itself. The defense had requested Rev. Moon be tried by the judge alone, but presiding Judge Gerard Goettel denied the motion after the prosecution insisted on a jury trial.

Tribe charged the prosecution's reasons for insisting on a jury violated Rev. Moon's freedom of speech. The government had said a jury trial was needed to counter a speech Rev. Moon gave after his arraignment last October in which he charged his prosecution was motivated by religious prejudice. This reason was "constitutionally forbidden," because it in effect punished Rev. Moon for exercising his right of free speech, Tribe said.

Tribe said another reason the verdict should be reversed is that Goettel erred in his instructions to the jury, failing to adequately explain the New York law concerning trusts. He said that on that point alone, "this case would have to be reversed, even if, as the government contends, there was overwhelming evidence of guilt."

The key issue in the case was whether the $1.5-million bank account and stock held in Rev. Moon's name at the Chase Manhattan Bank belonged to him personally or was held in trust to advance his church.

Tribe said New York trust law presupposes money given by members of a religion to their religious leader is held in trust. "Nothing in the trial record would overcome that presupposition," he said.

But prosecutor Jo Ann Harris said the government had proved through extensive documentation that "these assets were his and he regarded them as his and his alone, and used them as his and his alone for personal reasons."

She also defended Goettel's instructions to the jury and denied there was any evidence to support defense charges that the jury was prejudiced.

She said the post-trial defense motion to investigate allegations of jury misconduct had been denied by Judge Goettel on the grounds that the allegations came from a "sleazy source," namely a private investigator previously indicted on jury-tampering charges.

"The record is crystal clear on the fairness and impartiality of this jury. There is utterly no record of prejudice in this case," she said.

But Tribe, in a brief rebuttal following Harris' presentation, said, "You can call it 'sleazy' all you want," but that one of the jurors in a sworn affidavit had said some members of the jury, contrary to instructions, read newspaper articles about the trial during deliberations.

Tribe said another juror, believing members of Rev. Moon's church had fired shots at her car, was reported to have said if she couldn't "get at Rev. Moon legally, she would do it illegally."

Appeals Court Justices James Oakes, Ralph Winter and Richard Cardamone reserved decision on the case. Defense attorneys said they expected a decision within 30 days to six weeks. The justices may either affirm or reverse the charges, or may call for a new trial. 

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