Sizemore pleads not guilty to Ore. tax charges

Sizemore pleads not guilty to Ore. tax charges
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SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Conservative activist Bill Sizemore, a GOP candidate for governor, pleaded not guilty to state tax evasion charges Tuesday and said he will represent himself during the criminal trial.

Sizemore and his wife, Cindy, are charged with failing to file Oregon tax returns over the past three years. They both entered not guilty pleas during a brief appearance in Marion County Circuit Court.

Sizemore, who for years has battled with public employee unions, said he knows there will be pitfalls in acting as his own attorney at trial. But he said he thinks it will work to his advantage overall as he takes his case directly to the jury.

"I would like the jury to look me in the eye. I want the jury to see me making the opening and closing arguments," said Sizemore, who has sponsored dozens of ballot initiatives to limit taxes and curb public employee unions.

Sizemore said he probably would hire a lawyer to represent his wife after Judge Joseph Ochoa ruled that the Sizemores could afford to pay for their own attorney.

No trial date has been set yet. The Sizemores are to be back in court for a hearing Jan. 26.

Lawyers for the state say Sizemore and his wife failed to file tax returns for 2006, 2007 and 2008.

For each count of tax evasion, he could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $125,000, if convicted.

Bill Sizemore has said he has not yet filed the returns but insisted he intends to submit them.

The criminal allegations were the latest in a series of legal woes for Sizemore dating back to 2002, when two Oregon-based teachers unions sued the initiative activist. In that case, the jury found that Sizemore's former political action committee had filed false financial reports and used forged signatures to qualify anti-union measures for the ballot.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.