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Attorney Whitney Lawson helps basketball star win acquittal on federal tax crime charges

On Behalf of | Sep 28, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

When a former University of Kentucky star basketball player was charged with tax fraud in federal court, attorney Whitney True Lawson of True Guarnieri Ayer, LLP, was there to help.

Former Wildcat’s basketball career takes him to China

U.K. fans likely remember Randolph Morris, who played for the Wildcats from 2004-07. He went on to a successful professional career in the NBA and the Chinese Basketball Association. He spent several years playing in China for the Beijing Ducks. In his contracts with the Ducks was a provision stating that his paychecks were “net of tax.” Morris believed this meant the team was paying all his income taxes. In fact, this benefit was one of the reasons he agreed to sign with the Ducks.

A misunderstanding over taxes

But this was a misunderstanding between Morris and the club. The Ducks paid his Chinese income taxes — but not the taxes due to the IRS back in the U.S. When Morris learned he had to report his income to the IRS, he tried contacting the team several times to get the necessary documents. But the team never provided them.

His agent reassured Morris that he did not have to report the income to the IRS. But federal prosecutors later charged him with tax fraud. At trial, prosecutors claimed that Morris “stopped trying” to report the money he made in China, and that was enough to constitute a crime.

But as Lawson and the rest of Morris’ legal team explained to the jury, Morris never intentionally tried to avoid paying taxes. He was misled by the Ducks and his agent and did his best to fix his mistake when he realized the truth. The jury recognized that lack of intent and returned “not guilty” verdicts on all four charges Morris faced after deliberating just three hours.