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Tax protester grills self on witness stand

Friday, November 22, 2002

By Torsten Ove, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

In a rare spectacle, tax protester Karl Frank Kleinpaste called himself as a witness yesterday and then asked himself questions on the stand about his decade-long battle with the Internal Revenue Service.

"It may seem a little awkward, but this is my decision, not Mr. Kleinpaste's," U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster explained to the jury.

"I do also apologize for the awkwardness," said Kleinpaste, who has insisted on representing himself, "but there is nothing to be done about it."

So the jury and a gallery full of IRS agents listened as Kleinpaste, 43, of South Beaver, asked himself his name and how old he is and then launched into testimony that Lancaster warned him several times was straying from the question-and-answer format he has imposed.

In pretrial hearings, the judge had already told Kleinpaste he wouldn't be allowed to recite a "narrative" on his tax views or use the stand as a soapbox to address the jury directly. He had to enforce those rules yesterday.

"You have to ask yourself some questions here," the judge said at one point when Kleinpaste veered off on a tangent. "You can't just ramble on."

Kleinpaste, a former Carnegie Mellon University computer programmer who once worked for Lycos, is charged with 10 counts of willful failure to file tax returns in the 1990s, income tax evasion and lying on loan applications by providing false tax returns.

He insists that the income tax does not apply to him for a variety of reasons often cited by tax protesters: that he is not a U.S. citizen, that the tax is voluntary, that income is not the same as earned wages, that the IRS does not exist.

There's no doubt he didn't pay his taxes. But Kleinpaste says he came to the good-faith conclusion he doesn't have to pay after years of research beginning in 1993, aided in part by his ex-wife, Barbara, who has a law degree.

In cross-examining Kleinpaste late yesterday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Conway drove home the point that Kleinpaste considers taxpayers "sheep" and that he benefits from federally funded services, like the highway system and the U.S. mail, at the expense of people who pay their taxes.

The trial is expected to end early next week.

Torsten Ove can be reached at tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.

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