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Last Updated October 30, 1998

 

Skating on Thin Ice: Gary Beacom and the Pitfalls of Tax Protesting

A male professional figure skater in prison? No, this is not a Saturday Night Live skit but real life. Ensconced in the Allenwood Low Security Correctional Institute near White Deer, Pennsylvania, is Canadian Gary Beacom, currently several months into his 21-month sentence on tax evasion and failure-to-file charges. He still keeps up with the skating news, but there's not much room in his cell for the buoyant skating routines his fans loved so much. How did this award-winning professional figure skater manage to--if one can pardon the skating pun--spin out of control? That story is why Gary Beacom, a change of pace from the "normal" tales of pipe bombs and camouflage, is the Militia Watchdog's 1998 Right Wing Extremist of the Year.

Figure skating, until fairly recently, seemed to be the province of graceful and angelic figures who would be mistaken for fragile porcelain dolls were it not for their dazzling displays of strength and flexibility. Flaws moral and otherwise were rarely displayed in the public arena. But along came Tonya Harding, shattering the fairyland image of figure skating with her trailer park plot against Nancy Kerrigan. Then, from the world of professional figure skating came the news of the arrest of Canadian skater Gary Beacom. What would be next? Figure skating biker gangs?

 

The Skater

Some might suggest that if any skater were going to run afoul of the law in such a way it would be Gary Beacom, a man with a well-developed reputation for the unorthodox and the rebellious. Beacom was born in Calgary, Alberta, to an American mother and a Canadian father. Ice-skating was his passion from an early age. He began taking formal lessons when he was only seven and entered his first competition just two years later. Beacom showed his individuality from the beginning, developing new styles while training without a coach. This was partially due to another unusual choice--unlike most celebrity skaters, Beacom actually completed a college degree, graduating from the University of Toronto in 1984 with a degree in physics and philosophy. With little money and little time to practice, Beacom could afford neither a coach nor extra practice time to spend with one. He could skate for only two hours a day, so he spent that time developing his own performance style.

But Beacom's amateur career did not last all that long. He participated in a number of competitions, but the 1984 Winter Olympics, held in Sarajevo, were the last straw. During the compulsory figures part of the competition, 24-year old Beacom ran afoul of the judges, who gave him surprisingly low marks. In a rage, Beacom cursed at the judges and kicked the sideboard of the skating rink, turning a personal frustration into a public spectacle. Beacom would only place eleventh in the competition. "I've given up much of my life and delayed my education so that I could get here," he told a reporter after the incident. "I resent the incompetence of the judges." Later, many would agree that the judging was unfair, but the Olympic incident essentially spelled an end to Beacom's amateur career.

This development was not necessarily a bad thing, though, for professional figure skating was enjoying an ever-growing boom in popularity, and it was an area in which Beacom's unorthodoxy and inventiveness could become an asset rather than a liability. In 1995, Beacom told Dance Magazine that his guiding principles were "autonomy, individuality, and freedom." His new career would reflect those principles. After the 1984 Olympics, the British ice dancers Torvill and Dean hired Beacom to accompany them on their world tour. Beacom also developed both a professional and personal relationship with Gia Guddat. In the late 1980s he developed a one-man show of his own, "Hard Edge," which was well-received by critics. Beacom and Guddat settled near Idaho's Sun Valley, a prominent winter sports resort, where they directed and starred in the Sun Valley Skating Center's summer programs. Beacom's prominence and celebrity grew; he even became the subject of a television documentary: "Gary Beacom: Life on the Edge." In 1988 he won the gold medal in the world professional figure skating championships.

What audiences loved most, though, was his comedic touch. In the early 1990s he and Guddat created a duet number called "I Think I'm Losing My Marbles," in which the two skaters skated on both hands and feet, using four skates each, to imitate a centipede. A solo routine--which delighted audiences just as much--was set to Leonard Cohen's "I'm Your Man." For that routine, Beacom dressed as if he had just come from the office and ended the performance resting unsupported on his head. In other routines, he adopted slicked-back hair and hepcat glasses (enabling critics to dub him the Jack Nicholson of skating) and even a straitjacket (to the tune of "I'm Going Slightly Mad"). Sometimes still the target of critics, the less generous of whom suggested that his imaginative style was merely a way to cover up weaknesses in his technique, he was always the favorite of crowds. The college student who could not afford a coach had become a celebrity who could afford, well, all sorts of stuff. Like Liberace, although with more talent, he could "cry all the way to the bank."

 

The Protest

So how did trouble enter paradise? It is tempting to think that perhaps paradise had that trouble all along, waiting for someone like Gary Beacom to come along and pick it up. Certainly, Sun Valley, Idaho, could seem like paradise. Nestled in the Wood River Valley in south central Idaho, it guards the entrance to the Sawtooth National Recreational Area, a fabulous preserve three-quarters of a million acres in size. But Sun Valley was not just a bump in the road. How many small towns can boast two dozen art galleries or its own summer symphony? Rugged souls can hike or take trail rides—during the winter, of course, skiing reigns supreme—while the more timid can relax at a world-class restaurant and read a novel. Perhaps a Hemingway novel would be suitable, for the bearded author loved Sun Valley and is buried in an adjacent town.

Skaters, of course, have even more to love. Sun Valley Resort has operated a skating program since 1936; the Sun Valley Skating School is one of the most prestigious in the country. Two rinks, one indoor and the other outdoor, accommodate hundreds of skaters of all ages and abilities. And every Saturday night, people gather for the weekly figure-skating show, headlined by a parade of world-famous skaters. Beacom and Guddat fit naturally into this scene. First Beacom, then later Guddat, acted as artistic director for the ice show. When not off wowing audiences across the country, Beacom would lead skating clinics for appreciative Sun Valley skaters. Guddat not only skated but also designed clothing, too, sold in local shops.

But Idaho, for all of its natural and man-made wonders, has a darker side as well. Its very remoteness and seclusion attracts a certain class of people who wish to retreat from a society they fear and despise, either to live in isolation or to try to make their own society. Homegrown malcontents, too, often spring up. Perhaps the most infamous example of this unwelcome class of citizens is in Hayden Lake, Idaho, where Richard Butler heads the white supremacist group Aryan Nations. Nor is Aryan Nations the only extremist group to thrive in northern Idaho. Nearby Sandpoint housed a group of Phineas Priests who bombed a newspaper office and an abortion clinic as diversions for armed bank robberies. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is the home of the white supremacist International Conspiratological Association. And the list could easily go on. Northern Idaho has acquired, to its dismay, a deserved reputation as a haven for anti-government extremists.

Nor is the rest of Idaho immune to such sentiments. Various groups and organizations, including militias, Christian Identity (a white supremacist religious sect) churches, and others, can be found throughout the state. Particularly noteworthy is the presence, especially in the Boise area, of a large number of groups and individuals who subscribe to a particular ideology known variously as "common law," "posse," or "sovereign citizen" beliefs. Adherents refer to themselves by such terms as "freemen," "state citizens," "sovereign citizens" or "constitutionalists." Perhaps the most famous recent example of a group espousing this philosophy is the Montana Freemen, who terrorized eastern Montana for several years until an 81-day standoff with the FBI ended their various activities.

The driving force behind this ideology is the right-wing tax protest movement that originated in the 1950s and 1960s. Tax "protesters" are not necessarily the same as tax "evaders." A tax evader is someone who does not want to pay taxes and will resort to unscrupulous or illegal means to avoid paying taxes. A tax protester may in fact be a tax evader, but he or she is also something more. Tax protesters, generally speaking, don’t simply want to avoid paying taxes, but claim, based on asserted moral or legal grounds, that they should not have to pay them. These assertions may be insincere, in that a tax evader may simply try to use tax protest arguments as a way to avoid paying taxes. However, since such arguments are rarely ever successful, most tax protesters are genuinely sincere in their beliefs to at least some degree. Greed still often plays some role in tax protest motivations.

For most of the past several decades, there have been two tax protest movements. A left wing tax protest movement, created largely by opposition to involvement in Vietnam, argued that people should not pay taxes because the taxes were being used to support a large military force being used in unjust wars. They opposed what they called "war taxes." These left wing tax protesters peaked in the early 1970s and again in the 1980s under the Reagan administration, but have largely died out in the 1990s.

The second tax protest movement is a right wing movement that has concentrated on interpreting the Constitution, U.S. law and the tax code in particular in such a way as to be able to claim that most people do not have to pay income taxes. In other words, the motivating force behind the right wing tax protest movement was to find "loopholes," actual or manufactured, which would allow people to claim that they had no tax obligation. An excellent example of this activity can be found in the movement’s claims about the Sixteenth Amendment, which it asserts was never legally ratified (because, it is argued, Ohio was not "legally" a state when Ohio ratified the amendment) and is therefore not actually in effect. Other tax protest claims have suggested that filing tax returns violates one’s Fifth Amendment rights, that taxes apply only to corporations and not to individuals, that the income tax is completely voluntary, or that the taxes apply not to "income" but to "profit," with the latter term extremely narrowly defined.

The tax protest movement eventually evolved an even more radical spin-off, with which it has remained closely linked, the "common law" movement. This movement uses the tax protest technique of willfully reinterpreting law and legal documents to claim that the entire government as it exists today is illegitimate, having long ago subverted and replaced a legitimate ("de jure") government with a tyrannical, illegal ("de facto") one. Adherents to this unusual philosophy work to "restore" the lost government, usually by attacking the present one through the tactics of "paper terrorism," a term used to describe the various bogus liens, bogus financial instruments, frivolous lawsuits, and other pseudolegal attacks on federal, state and local governments.

It was either the tax protest ideology or the "common law" ideology, or both, which Gary Beacom eventually encountered. Certainly he would have had many opportunities to do so living in Idaho, a state full of tax protesters. Indeed, during the period 1995-98, Idaho amassed four times as many tax violation cases as Colorado, even though the latter state is far more populous. Details on Beacom’s involvement with the tax protest movement are naturally very sketchy—the sort of media which covered Beacom would be completely unfamiliar with his non-skating activities. It is true, however, that Beacom wrote at least one lengthy letter to a skating magazine, Blades On Ice, talking about "constitutionalist" beliefs, such as the belief that people have the right to travel without "restrictions" such as drivers’ licenses or license plates.

During the 1990s, Beacom’s income increased dramatically. He now made hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. The skater decided not to pay income tax on these earnings. The big question, of course, is the chicken and egg one: did Beacom begin evading taxes then later adopt tax protest ideology as an excuse or rationalization? Or did his ideology lead him to try to avoid paying taxes? The evidence is not enough to say.

Regardless, Beacom attacked the problem of taxpaying with the same energy he gave to his skating routines. He attempted to hide his money by opening and closing various bank accounts, and even by using companies that acted as banks operating anonymous accounts. Beacom also encouraged promoters of skating shows to file tax records without his name on them, or not file them at all, thus hiding the income he made from them. How much money did Beacom hide? The Internal Revenue Service estimated that he owed an amazing $321,000 in unpaid income taxes during the period 1992-96. Nor did Beacom make any attempt to pay state income taxes during this period.

 

The Consequences

There are quite a few tax protesters in the United States, and even more tax evaders. Some of them manage to slip through the system untouched. Others can operate for years without problem. But most of them, eventually, reap what they sow. So it was with Gary Beacom. The skater first ran afoul of the Idaho Tax Commission, which discovered in 1996 that Beacom had not exactly been forthcoming in terms of paying state income tax. A trial in May did not go Beacom’s way and he eventually was ordered to pay his state taxes (the amount is unknown), as well as $26,000 in legal fees. Few outside of Beacom’s immediate circle even knew of the skater’s developing troubles; the state trial was barely reported. However, this would merely be the beginning of a much longer ordeal.

The state income tax case does reveal that by 1996 Gary Beacom had become pretty familiar with the tax protest movement, enough to hire tax attorney Larry Becraft of Alabama as an attorney. In the spring of 1997, Larry Becraft revealed his work for Beacom in a posting on the Internet to a newsgroup for libertarians living in the Pacific Northwest. In the posting, he stated that he had "a very important appeal for a man named Gary Beacom from Sun Valley which relates to Idaho state income tax returns." Becraft asked for the "support" of others in Idaho who were "interested in tax issues."

Lowell "Larry" Becraft, Jr., had by 1997 become the single most prominent attorney specializing in the cases of tax protesters. It is not an area that invites a great deal of competition. Most tax protesters dislike lawyers as much as they dislike the government. Moreover, the chances for success are amazingly slim. Before 1990 the Internal Revenue Service had a 100% success rate on tax protester cases. Since then, it has lost a few, on different grounds, but the statistics are still overwhelmingly in its favor at 96%. Tax protest attorneys can’t afford to be discouraged by failure. They also have to be creative. Tax protesters tend to fall into two categories: the purists and the practical. The purists will use arguments in court that have long since been ruled against or thrown out as frivolous. A purist might claim that he or she is not required to fill out an income tax return because that would violate the Fifth Amendment, even though the courts ruled against that argument years ago. Why? Because they are not simply trying to win their case, they also believe that their argument is correct. Therefore, if a judge rules against it, it is the judge that is wrong, not the argument. The practical protesters, however, do not treat each argument as if they were crusades, but rather as weapons. If a particular argument fails, they abandon it and try a new one.

Becraft falls into the practical camp, even to the extent of urging tax protesters to abandon lines of defense that had long since been proven impractical. He has also spoken out against many of the more bizarre theories of the "common law" adherents, such as the notion that gold fringe on the U.S. flag in a courtroom indicates that the court is an "Admiralty" court in which defendants have no constitutional rights. Still, there were few arguments that Becraft was not willing to try at least once. In 1985, Becraft tried to defend one client, Jane Ferguson, by arguing that the 16th Amendment, which allowed a federal income tax, was void because eleven state legislatures slightly reworded it before ratifying it. The judge was not impressed by his argument. In 1987, Becraft defended—unsuccessfully—a Nevada heavy equipment operator by claiming that the defendant had become convinced by a tax protest group that he honestly did not have to pay taxes. In 1990 the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals called "absurd" Becraft’s contention that the 16th Amendment did not authorize a direct, non-apportioned income tax on U.S. residents. However, the following year Becraft did have some success, when a jury refused to convict his client, Franklin Sanders, and sixteen other defendants, on charges of conspiring to evade federal taxes through a secret "warehouse" bank (such banks conceal monetary transactions by disguising them as "barter"). However, Becraft and Sanders were less successful in a state trial in 1992. Becraft’s greatest "victory" came in 1993, in a case tax protesters have pointed to ever since as evidence that they can "win" against the system. The case involved Tennessee farmer Lloyd Long, who stopped paying income taxes in1989. Although Long’s tax liability was never in doubt during the case, he "won" because the jury became convinced that Long honestly believed he did not have to pay taxes, and therefore was innocent on charges of willfully failing to pay taxes. Becraft and Long won because they claimed that the IRS had not "proved" to Long that he had to pay taxes. This argument is one that usually fails, but Long and Becraft managed to make it work. Since then, Becraft has defended a variety of tax protesters and other extremist defendants.

When the appeal was made for the state case, it was not exactly original. Beacom argued that he was not required by state law or Tax Commission rules to disclose income information on state income tax returns. The Court of Appeals, in June 1998, called his theory "inventive," but was otherwise unsympathetic, ruling against him. However, by then Gary Beacom had considerably more pressing problems—not a state civil case but a federal criminal case. On June 13, 1997, the federal government issued an indictment of Gary Beacom on three counts related to his failure to pay taxes for most of the 1990s. Ten days later, Beacom entered a not-guilty plea and posted $10,000 bond.

Beacom had by now gotten himself into a lot of trouble, but he was about to make it even worse. Had he hired a good attorney, pled guilty, and agreed to pay back taxes and fines, he might yet have escaped prison. But Beacom did not do that. Nor did he attempt to use an attorney like Larry Becraft to help him offer a defense. Instead, Beacom tried to get the court to accept one Gary DeMott as his counsel.

What was the significance of this choice? Most importantly, it illustrates how far gone Beacom was. Gary DeMott was not even an attorney, only a landlord. But he was not just anybody. He was an anti-government extremist who had been a thorn in the side of federal and state officials in Idaho for years. He first achieved prominence in 1992 as director of "United We Stand, Idaho," a group supporting the election of H. Ross Perot, although there was some dispute as to whether or not his organization was "authorized" by the Perot campaign. By 1995, however, he had become much further from the mainstream than H. Ross Perot. He had become a strong adherent of the "common law" movement, even to the extent of taking the lead in forming vigilante courts called "Courts of Justice" across the state.

DeMott’s "Courts of Justice" would recognize no other authority other than the county clerk. It would select its own judges from the "most learned" members. If it judged someone guilty of harming someone else, that person would either have to offer some sort of compensation or become an "outlaw," outside the "protection" of the court—in other words, it would be "open season" on the "outlaw." DeMott was, naturally enough, an opponent of the federal income tax. In fact, he believed that because he was an "American national," the government had no jurisdiction over him, because the federal and state governments were illegal. DeMott formed his own group, the Idaho Sovereignty Association, to press his idea of "common law" courts. "What we’re trying to do is effectuate a restoration of government," DeMott told one reporter. "And if you don’t like it, Canada’s to the north and Mexico’s to the south."

However, DeMott gave indications that he was not necessarily willing to wait for people to emigrate to Canada or Mexico. In September 1996, DeMott and the Idaho Sovereignty Association mailed 391 notices to local officials in Idaho, threatening to arrest them if the officials did not re-take their oaths of office (because their oaths did not include the words "so help me God"). DeMott also claimed that Idaho judge Patricia Flanagan "stole" the constitutional rights of due process from a widow with Alzheimer’s who had been assigned a guardian by county officials. He threatened to arrest Flanagan as well. On September 28, he claimed, "town criers" would read the names of noncompliers from the steps of each county courthouse, then Association members would make citizen’s arrests. If the county sheriff would not help them, DeMott threatened to arrest the sheriff. At the same time, DeMott and his supporters filed bogus liens for millions of dollars against the property of public officials.

When push came to shove, DeMott backed down and did not perform his "citizen’s arrests," but he remained a constant thorn in the side of Idahoans. One area where DeMott became increasingly active was in the realm of "legal expert," a common occupation for many "common law" activists who, despite no legal training, bill themselves as "constitutional experts" or "legal scholars" of various stripes and attempt to represent like-minded people in their various legal battles against the government. For instance, in September 1997, Lava Hot Springs residents Charles and Geneta Frandsen attempted to appoint DeMott as their attorney in their federal tax trial. As is typical, the judge in the case refused the request, since DeMott was not a licensed attorney (generally speaking, defendants can have an attorney of their choice, a court-appointed attorney if they cannot afford one, or can defend themselves. However, they cannot choose someone who is not a licensed attorney to represent them). The Frandsens were convicted and sentenced to two years in prison each.

It was this person, Gary DeMott, whom Gary Beacom had called on to act as the "attorney of record" in his upcoming trial. To make such a request was an indication that either Beacom—who was referring to himself as a "constitutionalist"—was either truly wrapped up in the anti-government philosophy of the "common law" movement or was extraordinarily na´ve and receiving some extremely bad advice from "friends" like Gary DeMott. In any case, Judge Larry Boyle was not inclined to grant Beacom’s wish. He not only barred DeMott from acting as attorney of record, he also declared that the court would accept no filings from DeMott. Beacom stated that he wished to proceed pro se; i.e., he would defend himself. Judge Boyle appointed a stand-by counsel, in the event that Beacom would change his mind and set a jury trial date for September 16, 1997, in the court of Edward J. Lodge.

In mid-September, the trial began. Gary Beacom presumably had the out-of-court assistance of DeMott and others, but any such "assistance" would be negative in effect. Beacom had a difficult task in front of him. The old adage that the man who represents himself has a fool for a client is demonstrated time and time again in cases involving "common law" advocates and tax protesters. This is primarily because such pro se litigants, with no legal background, have the task of convincing juries to accept wildly inaccurate interpretations of the law, interpretations which almost invariably have no basis in fact or law. Prosecutors who are able to overcome the irritations of dealing with pro se litigants (who usually have no knowledge of courtroom procedure nor any real understanding of the legal process) usually can make short shrift of such arguments.

Transcripts from Beacom’s trial are not readily available, but some of his courtroom strategy can be divined from a letter he wrote to International Figure Skating Magazine in June 1998, excerpts from which appeared in its September/October issue. In that letter Beacom complained, first of all, that he was not given a "fair trial with due process of law." Particularly irritating to him was that he was denied his "constitutional rights of counsel of choice," meaning DeMott, and that he was denied "trial by jury." The jurors in the case might have been surprised at the latter contention, but it appears that what Beacom was actually referring to were his unsuccessful attempts to introduce jury nullification into the mix during the trial.

What did Beacom try to do? In his own words, there was "a motion to suppress evidence and forbid any mention to the jurors of the constitution or of their long-established right to follow their consciences in considering not only the facts in controversy but also the law and its application." To someone unfamiliar with the subject, Beacom’s objection doesn’t make much sense. But it is clear that Beacom was adopting a strategy common in cases involving right-wing extremists, a strategy of introducing the concept of jury nullification. Jury nullification is a very simple, and quite controversial, concept. Theoretically, it means that jurors should have right to decide not only if a defendant is guilty or not guilty according to the law, but also whether or not the law itself is a good law. If jurors decide they do not like the law, they can acquit the defendant regardless of the facts of the case. Many jury nullification proponents also suggest that the jury should be allowed to call and question witnesses as well. Spontaneous examples of jury nullification happen occasionally when jurors strongly sympathize with clearly guilty defendants; the case of John DeLorean is often cited as an example (or the policemen acquitted for assaulting Rodney King).

That is jury nullification in theory. It is supported by a mix of libertarians, right-wing extremists and even a few legitimate scholars and theorists. The major organization promoting it is FIJA, the Fully Informed Jury Association. Jury nullification in practice, however, is not a libertarian legal theory, but a deliberate tactic used to monkey wrench trials involving anti-government extremists. The principle is simple: convince at least one juror that the law is unfair or that the defendant should be acquitted regardless of the law, then that one juror can hang the jury simply by refusing to convict. Jury nullification literature encourages extremists to remain silent or even to lie about their beliefs when questioned during jury selection, so that they can get on juries and insure that there are no convictions. If prosecutors fail to weed out such individuals, even their best efforts and the most compelling evidence will result merely in a hung jury. In the past few years, several major criminal cases involving anti-government extremists have ended in exactly that.

Jury nullification tactics are not exactly subtle. One of the most common tactics is to give jurors or potential jurors some type of jury nullification literature. The most popular of these is a small booklet called the "Citizen’s Rule Book." This "jury handbook" appears to be primarily a reproduction of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Few people could take issue with that. However, the crucial section is at the end, an essay informing people that "if you feel the statute involved in any criminal case being tried by you is unfair," then the juror "must affirm that the offending statute is really no law at all and that the violation of it is no crime at all." Such statutes, states the handbook, "will become as ineffective as if they had never been written." Such principles "could prove to be of more than passing interest to you should you yourself be the defendant and your accuser happens to be the government." Most attempts to distribute such literature amounts to jury tampering, especially since its distributors rarely seem to show much interest in passing out such literature at trials that they support rather than oppose.

Judges very rarely have tolerance for jury nullification tactics, since they amount to the notion that twelve men and women can overturn any law in the country. Not surprisingly, Judge Edward Lodge had little patience for Gary Beacom’s attempts. With this attempt to short-circuit the trial stymied, Beacom had no recourse except to actually present his case in court. Beacom offered essentially two arguments. The first was that, as he told International Figure Skating Magazine, the income tax was "misapplied to individuals earning a living." This, in essence, is an old tax protest argument asserting that income taxes somehow do not apply to wages or to most forms of income (there are different variations on this notion; some argue that only "net income," defined very peculiarly, may be taxes; others say that the 16th Amendment allows only "excise taxes" on "government granted privileges"). The courts have long since dismissed such arguments as frivolous. As one judge mused in a 1986 case over the issue of wages and the income tax (which the tax protester lost), "Some people believe with great fervor preposterous things that just happen to coincide with their self-interest." Judge Lodge apparently had little patience for such an obviously frivolous argument, for Beacom later complained that he was "not allowed to explain" this argument.

The argument that Beacom did make, according to newspaper reports, was that the federal government had never proved to him that he actually owed income tax under the Constitution. This argument made little impression on the jury, which unfortunately for Beacom seemed to believe that paying income taxes was basically an understandable and normal obligation. Beacom’s efforts did not impress Judge Lodge, either. Lodge called Beacom "his own worst enemy" for representing himself in court.

In January 1998, Beacom was sentenced. Judge Lodge gave him 21 months in jail and over $53,000 in fines (in addition to being required to pay the taxes he owed). Because Beacom, a wealthy foreigner, was considered a flight risk, he was immediately taken into custody. Beacom also received three years of supervised probation after the completion of the prison term, but this is unlikely to come into play, since federal officials stated Beacom would probably be deported back to Canada upon release.

The reaction among figure skating fans, understandably surprised that one of the sport’s stars had ended up in federal prison, was varied. A few actually supported his stand. Wrote one fan to an Internet newsgroup, "Gary Beacom is like Thoreau…Taxes are a form of slavery and actually are illigal [sic]. Read about the French Revolution and how taxes bankrupted the country. Beacom is a hero to me." More typical among his supporters was a simple horror that a celebrity skater had been put in prison. "How can they?" asked one fan on a World Wide Web message board. "He is a figure skater, he needs to be able to practice. They can’t put him away, can’t he just pay it off. This is horrible—can he appeal? This doesn’t make any sense at all. He is on a special macrobiotic diet also."

However, most fans seemed to mix sympathy for his personal plight with a healthy dose of common sense. "Hi Gary!—Liz here!" wrote one fan on an Internet message board, apparently thinking she was addressing Gary Beacom directly, "You have three generations of skating fans…Being women we all love your performance of ‘I Am Your Man.’ Where can we get a video copy? In reply to your tax problem, I have to pay, so do you. PS: We love you." More succinct was a "Skater Haiku" posted by a "Debra" on a fan’s webpage: "Income tax, no fun / Gary Beacom pays high price / Should have paid on time!"

And so Gary Beacom is in a minimum-security federal prison in Pennsylvania, unrepentant and unbowed. His stubborn ideological convictions—made worse by the fact that they are not even based on fact—coupled with, perhaps, a modicum of greed, caused him to interrupt, perhaps even to throw away, his popular and rewarding career. Not because he is a bomber or a gun-toting militiaman, which he is not, but because he is simply so typical of so many other self-destructive right-wing fanatics who cause misery to themselves, their families and their friends with their pseudolegal theories and arguments, Gary Beacom is the Militia Watchdog’s 1998 Right Wing Extremist of the Year.

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