Ed Brown: Criminal or Hero?

By now I’m sure everyone has heard about the Ed and Elaine Brown story, couple holding up in their home after being convicted on tax charges.  Some have portrayed the Browns as freedom fighters standing up to a government over stepping its bounds.  Others have portrayed them as common criminals.

In truth, I think they fall somewhere in between.  Ed somehow came to a conclusion that there are no federal laws requiring one to pay income tax.  After doing some research on the matter he could not find any evidence of such laws so he made the choice to stop giving his money to the government.  While I agree the government takes FAR too much from all of us I don’t agree cutting them off cold turkey is right either.  Anyway… After about ten years time the government finally caught up to the fact he wasn’t paying them (about right for government pace) so away they hauled him to court to face charges.  During the hearing the Browns made it clear they would cooperate and pay up all money owed if they could be shown the law requiring them to pay.  The judge in the case stated they do not need to be shown the laws they are charged with.  This is where I think the government went astray.

Now granted, if I don’t believe there is a law against murder on the books that doesn’t make it ok for me to go out killing people, but unlike murder this is a situation that can be corrected.  If Ed is wrong and there is a law requiring him to pay taxes he can pay up what he owes.  But the fact he is being charged with a crime and being refused the information regarding which law he has broken I would say is a violation of the 6th amendment.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

Not being allowed to view the law you are accused of breaking is in my opinion not informing the accused of the nature and cause of the accusation.  Now once shown the law the Browns need to admit they are wrong and submit to whatever punishment is deemed valid for them but to sentence someone to 5 years in prison without ever showing them what law they’ve actually violated is just as criminal as breaking the law in the first place.