Delaware senator failed to report tens of thousands in back taxes

DOVER — A Delaware state senator who owes tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes failed to report the debt on his required financial disclosure form earlier this year, but the violation was never reported to the attorney general’s office.

Despite a federal tax lien of more than $50,000 filed in April 2018 and a state tax lien of almost $10,000 filed two weeks later, Sen. Darius Brown wrote “none” on a section of the form instructing him to list each creditor to whom he had been indebted for 90 or more consecutive days during 2018 in an aggregate amount in excess of $1,000.

The Wilmington Democrat also reported no income exceeding $1,000 from a single source, despite his Senate salary.

Brown submitted an amended form last week after The Associated Press questioned his initial filing. The amended form describes his debts only as “federal” and “state.” Brown also separately disclosed a federal student loan debt.

Brown repeatedly failed to explain how he could have overlooked tens of thousands of dollars in debt, which has been the subject of media reports, when he submitted his form on March 15.

Darius Brown

“It was just, I guess, an oversight,” he told the AP. “You brought it to my attention.”

Knowingly filing a false financial disclosure report is a misdemeanor. State law requires Delaware’s Public Integrity Commission to report any suspected violation of the disclosure rules by a legislator or member of the judiciary to the attorney general’s office, but that was not done in Brown’s case.

“The violation was not suspected until you raised the issue,” commission counsel Deborah Moreau said in an email to the AP, adding that Brown’s submission of an amended form made referral to the AG’s office moot.

“The PIC has no access to filer’s banking or tax records which would most likely be the only way a suspected violation could be revealed, other than personal knowledge such as that you imparted,” Moreau noted.

Brown has a history of noncompliance with the law, including pleading no contest before judgment to offensive touching in 2004 and pleading guilty to resisting arrest in 2009.

Brown also has a long history of traffic arrests and convictions, which led a Court of Common Pleas commissioner, acting on a petition by the attorney general’s office, to recommend in 2007 that he be declared a habitual offender and prohibited from driving for five years.

Nevertheless, Brown was arrested after a traffic stop just over a year later and subsequently convicted of driving while his license was suspended or revoked, the sixth time he had been charged with that offense.

Under state law, a habitual offender convicted of operating a motor vehicle while prohibited from doing so faces a mandatory prison sentence of at least 90 days.

Brown was never charged with that specific offense, even though state law requires the attorney general’s office to determine whether a person charged with driving without a license, or driving while a license is suspended or revoked, has been adjudged a habitual offender and thus barred from driving.

“If the attorney general determines that the person has been so adjudged, the attorney general shall cause the appropriate criminal charges to be lodged,” the law reads.

Mat Marshall, a spokesman for Attorney General Kathleen Jennings, said his office could not confirm whether the habitual offender recommendation was ever entered as an order, and that it does not have traffic case files from 2007. Marshall did say that Brown was never charged with “driving after judgment prohibited,” which could have landed him in prison as a habitual offender.

“There are tens of thousands of cases in CCP a year and we cannot in 2019 explain charging decisions in traffic cases from 2008 and 2010,” Marshall said.

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