Bishop Anthony Jinwright, convicted in May on 13 counts related to federal tax evasion, will not be released on bond pending sentencing, U.S. District Judge Frank Whitney ruled Friday.
In an 11-page ruling, Whitney, who presided over Jinwright’s four-week trial, rejected the preacher’s request on all points.
The pastor of Greater Salem City of God faces a possible 50 years in prison. His wife, Harriet Jinwright, was convicted on four counts and faces a possible 20 years.
Whitney has not set a sentencing date. Harriet Jinwright was allowed to remain free pending sentencing.
The Jinwrights were indicted on charges that they failed to report more than $1.8 million in income on their federal tax returns between 2001 and 2007. That number eventually was increased to $2.3 million.
During those same years, prosecutors alleged, the couple received more than $5 million in compensation from the west Charlotte church. Prosecutors estimated that the Jinwrights owed the federal government nearly $700,000.
As a condition for his release, Jinwright had proposed to: (1) resign from all roles relating to financial decisions of Greater Salem; (2) accept no funds greater than $300,000 from Greater Salem; (3) abstain from solicitation of contributions from Greater Salem members while on church property or using Greater Salem resources; (4) submit to continued verification by the Probation Office confirming that he is not receiving improper funds; and (5) resign from membership on Greater Salem’s board of directors.
In rejecting Jinwright’s bond request, Whitney upheld his earlier ruling that the 56-year-old preacher poses “a danger to the economic safety of the community.” Jinwright’s proposed conditions for release, he said, were insufficient to overcome that burden.
“In convicting Defendant, the jury appeared to find Defendant not credible and rejected the majority of his testimony,” the judge wrote. “Additionally, Defendant absconded money from the IRS for years, which translates to experience in concealing financial resources that a periodic audit from the Probation Office might not uncover. Since Defendant is now in the position of having been found guilty of certain crimes, the Court is unpersuaded that Defendant’s offer to remove himself from financial dealings at (Greater Salem) provides clear and convincing evidence that he would no longer pose a danger to the economic safety of the community.”
The judge also rejected Jinwright’s contention that keeping him in jail prevented him from settling his financial affairs, including the sale of his funeral home business.
“While in Mecklenburg County Jail, Defendant has the ability to make periodic phone calls, receive periodic visitors, and send and receive mail,” Whitney wrote. “Defendant’s detention does not isolate him from communication with the outside world.”
The judge labeled as “disingenuous” Jinwright’s contention that allowing him out on bond would save taxpayers the cost of detention and allow him to more quickly pay off his tax debts. Jinwright’s petition for bond had stated that “The government obviously needs all the tax revenue it can get, since it is running at a substantial deficit.”
“While the amount owed by Defendant to the IRS is substantial,” rhe judge wrote, “it will hardly make a dent in the national debt. This argument is meritless.”
Although Whitney had stated in open court that he did not consider Jinwright a flight risk, he wrote in Friday’s ruling that Jinwright, having now been convicted, must show “clear and convincing evidence that he is not likely to flee.” Jinwright’s petition for bond did not meet that burden, the judge said.
“Over the past several years, Defendant has traveled internationally to the Caribbean and South Africa,” Whitney wrote. “It is possible that he has established ties overseas that could facilitate his flight from the United States. Moreover, Defendant is fifty-six years old and faces a significant sentence. Defendant argues that he does not pose a flight risk because he has surrendered his passport and shown no desire to flee… Something has changed since trial; Defendant is no longer presumed innocent but is guilty of the counts of conviction. His legal status has changed, increasing his incentive to flee.”