Man who argued religious objection to tax filing guilty

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — U.S. District Chief Judge Michael W. Mosman has found an Oregon man guilty of four counts of willfully failing to file tax returns during an unusual second trial with no witnesses, no jury and a set of agreed-upon facts submitted to the court.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports Michael Bowman, 55, of Columbia City, a self-employed computer software engineer, called in to the hearing Monday and blamed the judge for keeping him from using his “sincerely held religious belief,’’ as a viable defense to whether he voluntarily and intentionally broke the law.

Monday’s bench trial followed a mistrial declared in August when a federal jury couldn’t reach consensus in the case. Mosman told the lawyers he had made a mistake in allowing Bowman to explain his religious objection to filing tax returns and that his instructions to jurors were poor.

At a second trial, Mosman said he wouldn’t allow Bowman to raise what’s called a “good faith” defense that he believed the government owed him an accommodation based on his reading of the federal Religious Freedom Reformation Act and the Oregon Constitution.

The judge found Bowman knew he was required to file tax returns in the years alleged, from 2011 through 2014, failed to file them and acted willfully. Bowman plans to appeal.