CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Grammy-winning trumpeter Phil Driscoll, who shifted from pop music to gospel, was convicted Thursday on federal charges that he used his Tennessee-based Christian music ministry in an income-tax cheating scheme.
A jury found Driscoll, 58, guilty of charges of conspiracy and evading some federal income taxes owed for 1996 through 1999.
The jury of seven women and five men acquitted Driscoll’s wife, Lynne, on the conspiracy count but deadlocked on a tax evasion charge, prompting U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier to order another trial that he said would be scheduled later.
After winning several awards at a young age for his trumpet playing, Driscoll began recording with several pop acts in the 1970s, including Joe Cocker, Stephen Stills, Leon Russell and Blood, Sweat & Tears. He received a Grammy in 1984.
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Driscoll, who relocated his music ministry to Eatonton, Ga., started Mighty Horn Ministries in Cleveland in the early 1980s. He recorded more than 30 of his own albums of gospel and patriotic music, which he distributes through his ministry and its Web site.
Driscoll performed “America” at the dedication ceremony for Bill Clinton’s presidential library in Little Rock, Ark.
Collier set an Oct. 26 sentencing for Driscoll and allowed the couple to remain free on bond. The Driscolls did not testify at their trial and declined comment, as did Driscoll’s attorney, Paula Junghans of Washington, D.C., as they left the courthouse.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Will Mackie said the judge would have discretion on the punishment although the conviction carries a maximum sentence of five years on each of the three counts. Jurors acquitted Driscoll on one of the tax charges in the indictment.
An indictment accused the Driscolls of scheming with Lynne Driscoll’s mother, bookkeeper Chris Blankenship, to avoid reporting personal income totaling more than $1 million and avoiding payment of federal taxes exceeding $300,000. Blankenship, who was indicted also, died before the trial.
Mackie said Driscoll owned an airplane, drove a Porsche and used money funneled through Mighty Horn Ministries, and later Phil Driscoll Ministries, to buy and sell lake houses.
Junghans said at the trial that Driscoll had possibly made mistakes reporting his income, but never intended to cheat the government. She said that while Driscoll traveled extensively in his ministries he had access to “literally buckets of cash” that he was given for appearances. She said those donations were always reported as income.
Junghans said the tax problem started after a businessman who made generous donations to the ministry turned out to be a “fraud.” She said the government seized the ministry airplane and the Driscolls ended up with financial problems.
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