ORLANDO — Political consultant Douglas Guetzloe was arraigned in federal court this morning on federal tax evasion charges, and was required by the presiding judge to surrender his passport.
The arraignment was held in U.S. District Court, for the Middle District of Florida, in the chambers of Judge Donald P. Dietrich. No bail was set, and Guetzloe was released on his own recognizance — although that doesn’t mean he’s free and back home. Guetzloe was brought into the chambers wearing a blue jail jumpsuit with the words “Orange County Corrections” on the back. Guetzloe is now serving a 60-day jail sentence for a different case, one involving a violation of Florida election laws.
Guetzloe was not brought into the courtoom in handcuffs, as inmates often are when they get arraigned at the Orange County Courthouse. During the very brief arraignment, the U.S. Attorney’s office outlined the charges against Guetzloe, while the judge advised the defendant of his rights.
U.S. Attorney Roger Hamberg told the judge that Guetzloe was facing two misdemeanor counts of “willful failure to file tax returns.” Guetzloe stands accused of having failed to file returns on nearly $187,000 in income in 2005, and more than $188,000 in 2006.
“Mr. Guetzloe was brought here by writ,” Hamberg said, meaning by a judge’s order to Orange County Corrections that Guetzloe be delivered to the courtroom on this date. “He’s currently in custody over at the Orange County jail on an unrelated state charge.”
A Writ of Habeas Corpus Ad Prosequendum was issued on May 25 for Guetzloe to be brought to the court today.
The judge noted that the charges Guetzloe is facing in federal court are both misdemeanors, and as a result, there would be “no need for a grand jury to return an indictment.”
The judge then advised Guetzloe of his rights, including the right to be represented by an attorney, and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“Anything you say can and will be used against you in trial,” Judge Dietrich said.
Through his attorney, Guetzloe indicated that he would be pleading not guilty to the charges. Guetzloe did not address the court during the arraignment.
Judge Dietrich gave Guetzloe and his attorney until Friday, June 17 to confer and review their case before a second hearing would be held to decide when to set a trial date. The judge declined to set bail and instead released Guetzloe back to the Orange County Jail, but with conditions that he would have to abide by, including surrending his passport to the court.
“The (U.S.) Marshall is given the final order of detention to hold him, as well as on the writ,” Judge Dietrich said, meaning that Guetzloe is now in federal custody.
Guetzloe was then escorted out of the courtroom.
Guetzloe is now in protective custody at the Orange County Jail. He was placed there because of his prominence in the community.
His current jail sentence dates back to 2006, when he was charged with a first degree misdemeanor for sending out a political mailer during a Winter Park mayoral election. Guetzloe failed to include the term ‘paid electioneering communication’ on the ad as required by Florida law, or put his name on it as the person who paid for the ad.
In November 2006, Guetzloe pleaded no contest to the charges, and Judge Jeffrey Arnold sentenced him to 60 days in jail. Guetzloe appealed, but the Florida Supreme Court ruled that he could be prosecuted for his failure to include ‘paid electioneering communication’ on the mail out.
Judge Arnold ordered Guetzloe to report to the Orange County Jail by noon on May 11, and imposed a $1,000 fine on the political consultant, and $50 in court costs.
Guetzloe had initially qualified for a work release program, and was taking part in the seven day work release orientation when he was brought back into custody pending the federal charges.
In addition to being a well-known political activist and founder of the Ax the Tax grass roots organization, Guetzloe is the founder of The Phoenix Network, a radio station that broadcasts live over the Internet, through a host Web site, www.PhoenixNetwork.US.
The station continues to operate in his absence.
Guetzloe has turned down all media requests for interviews.
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