AUGUSTA — A lawyer will spend 10 days behind bars for failing to file and pay state taxes for six years running.

The remainder of a 120-day sentence imposed on Alan F. Harding, 58, a Presque Isle attorney, was suspended, and he was ordered to spend a year on administrative release with conditions that he file and pay all taxes.

Harding was convicted in June of six counts each of failure to file and failure to pay state income taxes for 2005 through 2010, and a plea agreement capped the jail time at 45 days.

Justice Donald Marden imposed the 10-day jail term on Friday in Kennebec County Superior Court, and ordered Harding to report to the Aroostook County Jail Dec. 27.

“Those who engage in the practice of law are and should be held to a higher standard than the average person,” Marden said. “The public has a right to expect that those who’ve taken an oath to practice before the court are the very models of conduct our citizens are expected to follow.”

The criminal prosecutor, Assistance Attorney General Gregg Bernstein told the judge that Harding didn’t file his 2010 taxes until Sept. 26.

“He made $170,000,” Bernstein said. “He should be doing what every other Maine citizen has to do: file and pay. For a decade he has been disregarding these obligations under the law.”

Bernstein said Harding’s income varied between $140,000 and $225,000 per year.

Harding’s defense attorney, Walter McKee, said Harding paid all state taxes and fees — about $100,000 — in March and in January paid several hundred thousand dollars in back federal taxes. McKee told the judge there have been no federal charges filed against Harding.

A half dozen people described Harding’s devotion to the community and his family, especially to his father and to his younger brother, who is paralyzed and lives in a nursing home.

“I’ve watched Alan’s practice grow way too large,” said his neighbor, Tom Clukey. “The man will not say no.”

A number of attorneys and Presque Isle residents wrote testimonies to Harding’s good character.

McKee argued for a fully suspended sentence. “Alan Harding should not be sentenced to jail in this case,” McKee said. “Except for this incident, he’s led a completely exemplary life.”

Harding said he made bad choices with regard to the taxes.

“It is I alone who deserve the blame for the failures that bring me before this court,” he said. “It’s a humiliating experience for me to be here today.”

He described going through a series of bookkeepers/accountants when a long-term employee left in 2002 and being unable to sort out the taxes.

He said he has been punished by the community after his criminal convictions were published. People told him they would no longer use him as an attorney, and the Elks Lodge asked for his resignation.

The Board of Overseers of the Bar, which regulates conduct of attorneys, is seeking Harding’s immediate, indefinite suspension from the practice of law. A disciplinary hearing is set for Nov. 2-3. Harding has been licensed to practice law in Maine since 1978.

Four clients say Harding failed to properly represent them, and the board itself filed a complaint about Harding’s failure to pay state income taxes.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

 


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