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Judge rejects request for testimony by top federal officials in tax trial

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and other top government officials will not be required to testify in the trial of two tax protesters at Buffalo's federal court.

As the trial neared its conclusion Thursday afternoon, District Judge Richard J. Arcara turned down a demand for witness subpoenas from defendants Richard Ray Drachenberg and Patricia O'Connor.

Acting as their own attorneys, Drachenberg and O'Connor asked Arcara to compel Clinton, Holder and several other top federal officials to come to Buffalo to testify in their behalf.

The government witnesses could help them prove that he and his wife are not "citizens or residents of the United States" and therefore cannot be required to pay income taxes, Drachenberg said.

"Your request is denied," Arcara said.

"I object, Your Honor," Drachenberg said.

"Your objection's noted," Arcara said.

Clinton, Holder, the U.S. Treasury secretary and the other federal officials whose testimony was sought have no direct information about Drachenberg and O'Connor, and their testimony would "only be hearsay," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango.

Drachenberg argued that he and O'Connor, who live in Angelica in Allegany County, renounced their American citizenship in a sworn statement years ago and therefore are not subject to income taxes.

"Those witnesses are material for our defense," Drachenberg said. "We need them here."

Both the government and the defense rested their cases late Thursday. After Arcara ruled against them on the government witnesses, Drachenberg and O'Connor said they will not testify or present any other witnesses.

The couple's theory about income taxes is a "frivolous argument" that has been turned down in numerous court decisions, Mango said. Drachenberg disagreed.

Agents of the Internal Revenue Service said the couple failed to pay more than $216,000 in taxes over a 12-year period. During that period, agents said the couple made more than $714,000 in income, without paying any income tax.

O'Connor, who made most of the $714,000 as an independent contractor doing computer work, had all her paychecks sent to companies called Universal Solutions, Golden Eagle and Angelica Group, which were managed by her husband.

Federal prosecutors charge that the couple's strategy was nothing more than a scam designed to avoid paying taxes. Drachenberg and O'Connor deny the allegations.

Closing arguments in the case are expected to be heard Monday.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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