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Friday, March 16, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Christian musical artist reports to prison

Grammy-winning trumpeter Phil Driscol reported to federal prison this week to begin a one-year tax evasion sentence after a judge denied his request to remain free while he appeals the conviction.

Driscoll, 59, reported Monday to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, U.S. Bureau of Prisons records show. His projected release date, with credit for good conduct, is Jan. 24.

A jury last June convicted Driscoll
on charges of conspiracy and tax evasion involving his gospel music ministry.

Driscoll recorded with several pop acts in the 1970s, including Joe Cocker, Stephen Stills, Leon Russell and Blood, Sweat & Tears. He received a Grammy in 1984.

He recorded more than 30 of his own albums of gospel and patriotic music, which he distributes through his ministry based in Eatonton, Ga., and its Web site.

An indictment accused Driscoll and his wife, Lynne, of scheming with her mother, bookkeeper Chris Blankenship, to avoid reporting personal income totaling more than $1 million between 1996 and 1999.

An IRS agent testified at the trial that Driscoll and his wife improperly used his Mighty Horn Ministries to shield the money and evade $128,627 in taxes.

The jury acquitted Lynne Driscoll on the conspiracy count and deadlocked on a tax evasion charge that was later dismissed. Blankenship died before the trial.

At the end of the sentencing, Phil Driscoll's unpaid tax total was reduced to a range of more than $30,000 but less than $80,000. The white-haired trumpeter said at the sentencing that he never intended to take any money from the government of "the country that I love."

U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier at the Jan. 25 sentencing allowed Driscoll 45 days to report to prison while considering the bond motion.

Collier's order denying bond said Driscoll's arguments to remain free failed to "raise a substantial question of law or fact" likely to result in reversal, a new trial, a sentence that does not include imprisonment or a reduced sentence.