Ex-Met Gets 6 Months In Prison For Tax Evasion

If I were going to predict the first member of the 1969 Mets to go all the way off the deep end, I would have picked Bud Harrelson, or possibly Ed Kranepool. But the winner is … Jerry Koosman.

Jerry Koosman

(Koosman surrenders to authorities. Not seen: He’s pantsless)

And for being our first official koo-koo Met, Koosman has won six months in prison, which he was awarded today by a federal judge in Madison, Wisconsin for tax evasion. Koosman, you see, not only didn’t pay his taxes, he didn’t think he had to. That’s a couple different kinds of nutty right there.

Koosman, one of the Mets’ go-to pitchers in their ‘69 World Series run, apparently never paid federal income taxes in 2002, ‘03 or ‘04. He pleaded guilty in May to willfully failing to file taxes for 2002, a misdemeanor, in a deal with prosecutors. Best part to come:

Koosman, 66, of Osceola, told IRS agents in 2006 that he had researched federal tax laws and concluded they applied only to federal employees, corporate workers and District of Columbia residents. During a May hearing, he told U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb he was naive and fell in with the anti-tax movement.

His attorney, Robert Bernhoft, argued that Koosman deserved probation, pointing to letters to the judge that described him as an honest, reliable, naive farm boy. Koosman put his professional baseball career on hold to serve in the military, has performed too many charitable acts to list and never looked down on people of “lower station” even though professional athletes often act aloof and arrogant, Bernhoft added.

Prosecutors say Koosman has filed returns for the missing years but still owes the government about $65,000.

Six months in jail … Koosman can do that standing on his head. And he probably will.

But them’s small potatoes compared to the money owed the government by former Steeler Mel Blount. The IRS filed a civil action against him on Monday, claiming that he owes $630,000 in unpaid taxes from 1994-06. Blount blames bad investments, among them a youth home he started that has has lost money.

Where do these cases fit in on the list of top sports celebrity tax debtors? Pretty much no one touches Darryl Strawberry, who was dinged for tax evasion in 1994 and compelled to pay back $350,000, serve three years probation, six years home confinement and 100 hours of community service.

Others in the Tax Trouble Hall of Fame:

  • Pete Rose. Filed false income tax return in 1990, sentenced to five months in a correctional facility, three months in a community treatment center, 1,000 hours of community service and a $50,000 fine.
  • Lawrence Taylor. False return in 1990, three months house arrest, five years probation and 500 hours of community service.
  • Helio Castroneves. Although presumably still under investigation on some charges, the two-time Indy 500 winner was acquited in April of charges that he evaded $2.3 million in tax debt.