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NOTICE: Ninth Circuit Rule 36-3 provides that dispositions other than opinions
or orders designated for publication are not precedential and should not be
cited except when relevant under the doctrines of law of the case, res judicata,
or collateral estoppel.
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Joseph Otto STEINER, Defendant-Appellant.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Submitted May 5, 1992. [FN*]
Decided May 14, 1992.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central
District of California; No. CR88-0894-HLH, Harry L. Hupp, District Judge,
Before JAMES R. BROWNING and FARRIS, Circuit Judges, CAULFIELD,
[FN**] District Judge.
Appellant Joseph Steiner appeals his conviction for violations of 18 U.S.C.
s 287, making a false claim, and 26 U.S.C. s 7206(1), subscribing a false tax
return. Steiner raises numerous, and sometimes unintelligible issues in this
appeal. His primary contentions are (1) that the district court lacked jurisdiction;
(2) that his wages do not constitute gross income; (3) that he is not a "taxpayer" subject
to the federal tax laws; (4) that the district court improperly excluded evidence
and testimony; and (5) that the district court did not comply with Steiner's
wishes concerning advisory counsel. [FN1] These issues have been raised in
this court on numerous occasions in the past. We affirm.
Steiner worked for Southern Pacific Transportation Company ("Southern
Pacific") from 1969 up to the time of trial. Between 1980 through 1983
he earned $172,173 in wages from Southern Pacific. For those years he submitted
W-4 forms to Southern Pacific claiming he was exempt from withholding of federal
taxes from his wages. Consequently, no wages were withheld during those years.
Steiner did not file income tax returns from 1980 through 1983. He began filing
returns in 1984 at which time he claimed no income and sought a refund for
excess Railroad and Social Security tax withheld. In 1985 he filed a tax return
for the 1984 tax year and amended returns for the 1978 through 1984 tax years.
The 1985 return and the amended returns for 1978 through 1984 sought refunds
totaling approximately $220,000 for excess taxes withheld.
On November 8, 1988, the grand jury returned a twelve count indictment against
Steiner charging him with making false claims in violation of 18 U.S.C. s 287
and subscribing false tax returns in violation of 26 U.S.C. s 7206(1). He appeared
before the Magistrate on November 11, 1988, at which time the Magistrate appointed
Deputy Public Defender Kevin Brehm to act as "standby counsel". Steiner
was also permitted to defend himself. At trial, he represented himself with
the aid of Mr. Brehm who acted as "advisory counsel". During trial,
Steiner did not claim that he disagreed with the tax laws, but rather that
he did not believe that the amounts earned from Southern Pacific constituted "income" under
the tax laws. Specifically, Steiner contends that he is not a "taxpayer" as
identified in the Internal Revenue Code.
Steiner argues that the district court lacked jurisdiction over him because
he is a sovereign citizen of the state of California. It is well settled
that federal district courts have exclusive original jurisdiction over offenses
against the United States. 18 U.S.C. s 3231. Crimes defined in Title 26 of
the United States Code are included in the offenses over which the district
court has original exclusive jurisdiction. United States v. Studley, 783
934, 937 (9th Cir.1986). Steiner also argued that the word "includes",
which appears throughout the tax laws, limits the court's jurisdiction under
the tax laws. This argument has been specifically rejected in United States
v. Condo, 741 F.2d 238, 239 (9th Cir.1984), cert denied, 469 U.S. 1164 (1985),
in which this court held that the word "includes" is one of expansion,
B. Taxpayer Status
Steiner next argues that he is not a "taxpayer" subject to the federal
tax laws. This argument has repeatedly been rejected as "frivolous" by
this court. See, e.g. Studley, 783 F.2d 934 (appellant's contention that she
is not a "taxpayer" because "she is an absolute, freeborn and
natural individual is frivolous." Id. at 937) Steiner offers no novel
theories which would support a departure from this court's previous views on
C. The District Court's Order Excluding Evidence and Testimony
Defendant argues that the district court improperly precluded him from introducing
certain documents and testimony. The district court's order with respect
to the admission of evidence is reviewed for abuse of discretion. See United
States v. Bergman, 813 F.2d 1027, 1030 (9th Cir.), cert denied, 484 U.S.
852 (1987). Here, the district court properly excluded the disputed evidence.
Steiner argues that the court improperly prohibited him from calling certain
witnesses. However, the record reflects that the only witness besides himself
that he sought to call was the Secretary of the Treasury or a person who can
testify on the issues regarding his taxpayer status. Steiner advances no argument
as to why such evidence is admissible. The district court properly exercised
its discretion in precluding the introduction of such evidence which it deemed
irrelevant. Steiner next contends that during trial, the district court excluded
documents which Steiner sought to introduce which he termed "recision
documents". Additionally, the court ruled that Steiner could not introduce
actual copies of cases and treatises concerning tax law, but that he could
testify about his understanding of the material to show his state of mind.
With respect to the "recision documents", there is no indication
in the record that defendant sought to introduce such documents at trial. Therefore,
Steiner raises no legitimate issue with respect to the introduction of those
As to the textual material, the district court properly exercised its discretion
in not allowing Steiner to introduce such material. It is not an abuse of discretion
to exclude legal materials as evidence. Bergman, 813 F.2d at 1030. Moreover,
the court permitted Steiner to testify that he relied on the documents in forming
his beliefs regarding his taxpayer status.
D. The Appointment of Advisory Counsel
Steiner stated various preferences with respect to the appointment of counsel
in the record. His statement of issues on appeal included a statement which
implies that he objects to the appointment of advisory counsel. However,
Steiner did not raise an objection to the appointment of advisory counsel
below. Moreover, the Supreme Court has held that the trial judge may appoint
advisory counsel, even over defendant's objection, "to relieve the judge
of the need to explain and enforce basic rules of courtroom protocol or to
assist the defendant in overcoming routine obstacles that stand in the way
of the defendant's achievement of his own clearly indicated goals." McKaskle
v. Wiggins, 465 U.S. 168, 184 (1984). Steiner makes no argument that the
appointment of advisory counsel prejudiced his defense. Therefore, the district
court did not abuse its discretion.
FN* Pursuant to Ninth Circuit Rule 34-4 the panel unanimously finds this case
suitable for disposition without oral argument.
FN** The Honorable Barbara A. Caulfield, District Judge for the Northern District
of California, sitting by designation.
FN*** This disposition is not appropriate for publication and may not be cited
to or by the courts of this circuit except as provided by 9th Cir.R. 36-3.
FN1. Steiner also argues that his indictment was defective because the grand
jury did not consider all relevant evidence. However, an indictment valid on
its face is not subject to challenge on the ground that the grand jury acted
on the basis of inadequate or incompetent evidence. United States v. Calandra,
414 U.S. 338, 345 (1974). The other defects which Steiner seems to identify
with regard to the grand jury are harmless beyond a reasonable doubt in light
of the petit jury's guilty verdict. See United States v. Mechanik, 475 U.S.
66, 71 (1986).
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