The Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed on Thursday (Nov. 6) the felony conviction against a former state court judge for registering his motorhome in Oregon to avoid paying the Arkansas state sales tax, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Former Benton County district judge Rodney Parker Owens bought a 37-foot Featherlite Vogue IV Class A motorhome on Aug. 12, 1997, in Pryor, Okla., where the now-closed Featherlite Vogue assembly plant was located, and had it registered in Oregon, which does not have a sales tax, even though Owens and his wife were Arkansas residents at the time, according to the newspaper.
Arkansas law required Owens to register and license the motorhome in Arkansas within 20 days after purchase, but he did not do so until December 2001, after reading news accounts about the Arkansas State Police cracking down on state residents who registered vehicles in Oregon to avoid paying the state sales tax.
Although he eventually registered and licensed his motorcoach in Arkansas, Owens never paid the state tax. He was convicted in July 2002 and he resigned his judgeship in January.
In his appeal, Owens argued, among other things, that he was singled out for prosecution by state police for being, as a judge, too lenient in his rulings on drunken-driving cases, the Democrat-Gazette reported.
During the last five years, the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration has collected state taxes, interest and penalties from nearly 200 Arkansas residents who registered their RVs in other states, primarily Oregon, to avoid paying state sales taxes, the newspaper reported.
“We believe the Oregon tax issue has been resolved,” said John Theis, assistant revenue commissioner, who was quoted by the Democrat-Gazette. “Now, we are finding another problem with Montana,” Theis added.