By Brittany Brady
NEW YORK (CNN) — Actor Stephen Baldwin was arrested Thursday on a charge of failing to file New York state personal income tax returns for three years, according to a statement released by the Rockland County district attorney’s office.
According to the statement, Baldwin’s alleged tax liability for failure to file in 2008, 2009 and 2010 is more than $350,000, including penalties and interest. The arrest was a result of an investigation conducted by the Rockland County Special Investigations Unit and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, the statement said.
Baldwin pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Thursday in Nyack, New York, and was released on his own recognizance.
“Mr. Baldwin did not commit any crimes,” his lawyer, Russel M. Yankwitt. said. “He is working diligently with the district attorney’s office and the New York state commissioner of taxation and finance to resolve any remaining disputes,” Yankwitt said.
Baldwin’s lawyer said his client had cooperated in the year-long investigation that led to the charge and arrest. He said Baldwin did owe money to the government, but that no crime had been committed, as Baldwin did not have the intent to deceive.
Baldwin had trusted paid professionals to handle his affairs, especially during the time he was on an island shooting the reality TV show “Survivor,” Yankwitt said.
Baldwin produced a check for $100,000 Thursday as a “good faith” down payment on the money he owed, Yankwitt said.
Baldwin rode in his lawyer’s car to the police station and was not handcuffed. The government agreed on a date convenient for both Baldwin and his attorney for the arraignment about a month ago, Yankwitt said.
Baldwin is due back in court on February 5, but hopes his continued work with the state will lead to an agreement on an amount owed, Yankwitt said. They hope to settle somewhere between $100,000 Baldwin paid Thursday and the $350,000 the state is claiming, Yankwitt said.
District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe said Baldwin’s failure to file returns and pay taxes had contributed to sweeping cutbacks and closures in local government agencies and schools.
“At a time when Rockland County and New York State face severe fiscal shortfalls, we cannot afford to allow wealthy residents to break the law by cheating on their taxes,” Zugibe said. Baldwin faces up to four years in state prison if convicted on the state felony charge.
And New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Thomas H. Mattox said, “It is rare and unfortunate for a personal income tax case to require such strong enforcement measures in order to ensure compliance with our tax laws … particularly in light of the fact that the vast majority of New Yorkers fulfill their filing requirements voluntarily.”
The youngest of the four show-business Baldwin brothers, Stephen Baldwin is known for his 1994 role in the film “The Usual Suspects” and a 1989 appearance in the TV series “The Young Riders.” He also has become a conservative political activist, launching a conservative talk radio show in 2008, and speaking at political events around the country.
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