Man jailed after missing hearing
Tax protester headed north instead of to court
A Deer Park man, whose ex-wife said he might “go Ruby Ridge” if the government tried seizing his home for unpaid taxes, was ordered held without bond Thursday after being taken into custody by federal agents.
Ronald J. Davenport, 62, told U.S. District Court officials Wednesday that he would be unable to appear for a scheduled hearing that day because he was having car trouble, but agents arrested him after he hopped into the car outside his home and began driving north.
Davenport was indicted last month by a federal grand jury for filing $5.18 billion worth of fraudulent liens against U.S. Attorney James McDevitt and several other government employees in apparent retaliation for a 2008 civil suit filed to collect $252,000 in unpaid income taxes, which he still owes.
Davenport was summoned to appear at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Whaley.
Instead, Davenport called from Deer Park at 1:32 p.m. saying he couldn’t make it because of problems with his 1992 Lincoln. Moments later, federal agents – who had Davenport under surveillance – arrested him driving north toward Colville, according to courtroom testimony.
“I expected that I would release Mr. Davenport if he had honored the summons and appeared,” Whaley said.
Despite arguments about his anti-government views, fears he might “go Ruby Ridge” and burn his house down to keep the government from seizing it, Whaley said he was not convinced that Davenport poses a danger to the public.
“This is a country that has celebrated sharp criticism of the government,” Whaley said. “I don’t find the fact that he disagrees with tax law of the United States means that he is dangerous.”
But Whaley agreed with federal prosecutor Christopher O’Donnell, of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division, that Davenport is a flight risk.
“I summoned him to come to court. He drove north,” Whaley said. “I don’t think there are any conditions that are likely to make him appear. So, I will detain him.”
Jamie Hawk, of the federal public defender’s office, argued that Davenport has lived in the Deer Park area for 30 years and has several ties to the community. She also noted he served several years in the U.S. Army, including during the Vietnam War, and has no criminal record.
“There is no history of dangerous conduct or activity against anyone or property in any way,” Hawk said.
She pointed out that while he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, he will most likely only face months in federal prison if convicted. As a result, she told Whaley that Davenport may spend more time in jail waiting for trial than he would if a jury convicts him.
But O’Donnell called Special Agent Michael Isenberg, of the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Treasury Department, to testify about alleged claims made by Davenport.
Davenport’s ex-wife, Jennifer Davenport, told a tax advocate that her husband was planning to greet the planned government seizure of their Deer Park home with a protest with other anti-tax activists.
“Ms. Davenport then stated that her ex-husband is a very active tax protester and that he might ‘go Ruby Ridge.’ She said he’d threatened to burn the house down before he’d let the government take it,” the tax advocate wrote in court records.
On July 7, one day before the seizure was scheduled to take place, Davenport e-mailed government officials this message: “You guys are involved in a Criminal Racket to extort money and property from the American population by fraudulent means. When it’s time for you to meet your maker, I hope the Creator has mercy on your souls because what you’ve done to me and others, your souls deserve to rot in hell.”