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Official's sentencing in tax case is today

TAMPA - State Rep. Elvin Martinez should go to jail for at least two months as punishment and as an example to other late taxpayers, federal prosecutors will argue in court today. Martinez, 55, was convicted in December of intentionally failing to file timely tax returns for 1983, 1984 and 1985. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Paul Game Jr. today, and faces up to three years in prison and $225,000 in fines.

Although Martinez, who has no prior criminal record,was found guilty of only misdemeanor offenses, the government contends in a sentencing memorandum that a prison term of two to eight months is appropriate.

Martinez "has demonstrated a callous disregard for the tax laws of this country over a period of some 20 years," the government's memo says. "The fact that he is an attorney and a veteran lawmaker only serves to enhance the problem."

In his own sentencing memo, Martinez's attorney, J. Thomas Wright, points out that Martinez has since paid all his taxes plus $28,000 in penalties and interest.

"At the beginning and at the end of this prosecution, (Martinez's) statements have always been the same - 'I messed up and I'm very sorry about it,"' the memo says.

The government earlier had objected to postponing Martinez's sentencing from last week so he could attend House committee meetings in Tallahassee. "If the defendant were a plumber or a mechanic, it is doubtful that he would be asking for a continuance," prosecutors said in court papers.

Wright called the objection an example of the vindictive attitude federal prosecutors have had toward Martinez since he was acquitted of perjury charges they brought in 1986.

"A misdemeanor conviction is hardly the basis to castigate and denigrate a selfless, honest public servant," Wright says in court records.