SAN FRANCISCO — A former Reed Smith tax partner who did not pay his own taxes will spend one year in prison.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler sentenced James Kleier to prison on Wednesday for failing to file federal returns in 2008, 2009 and 2010, a period in which he earned more than $1.3 million. Beeler also ordered the 58-year-old San Francisco resident to pay $650,993 in restitution to the government for overdue taxes.
Kleier was a seasoned tax attorney, serving as the firmwide leader of Preston Gates & Ellis’ practice before jumping to Reed Smith in 2005. He also lectured on state and criminal tax law at Golden Gate University and UC-Hastings College of the Law. But he earned a more dubious distinction in 2009, making California’s list of the top 250 delinquent taxpayers, along with comic Sinbad and singer Dionne Warwick.
Although he was charged for three years of tax evasion, Kleier failed to report any income he earned from 1999 through 2010, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
“The defendant, a tax attorney, knew that he was required to file tax returns and pay taxes,” U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said in a statement. “This office will continue to work with the IRS to ensure that each person pays his or her fair share.”
Assistant Federal Public Defender Elizabeth Falk, who represented Kleier, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Newman.
Kleier remains an active member of the State Bar, according to its website. Laura Ernde, a bar spokeswoman, declined to comment specifically on Kleier’s case, but wrote in an email that a criminal conviction would typically be grounds for discipline, such as license suspension or disbarment. She added that the State Bar Court decides how to discipline attorneys after their convictions are finalized.
The sentence entered by Beeler mirrored a plea agreement filed in February in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California between Kleier and the U.S. attorney’s office. Kleier pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of willfully failing to file his taxes in 2008.
Kleier will surrender himself in September to begin serving his sentence.
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