asked by reporters if he planned to pay his taxes. 'If I can get a good G.I. loan I've got it made,' he quipped.
The singer called prosecutor Devon Gosnell a 'demon-possessed lady,' and said U.S. District Court Judge Robert McRae acted 'bitterly' towards him.
'When that lady was doing her bit, I actually felt the power of Satan,' said the singer, clad in blue jeans, black shirt and boots and a brown leather jacket. 'She told more lies than Carter's got liver pills.'
'Just because there is a not guilty verdict doesn't mean he's relieved of his duty to pay,' U.S. Attorney Hickman Ewing said after the federal court jury announced its verdict to courtroom cheers. 'We'll try to endeavor to pursue the tax.'
Ewing noted the prosecution argued that Lewis, who lost one wife by drowning and another by a Methadone overdose and also had two sons die in accidents, 'thought that he was above the law. Apparently the jury verdict reflects that.'
Lewis, who broke a leg in a jet-skiing accident this summer and hobbled into the courtroom daily on a cane, was jubilant when he left the courtroom.
'I think the jury was very fair,' he said. 'They weren't fools by any means. I studied their eyes. They knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jerry Lee Lewis does not steal.'
'My lawyer did the best job that could have been done,' said Lewis, hugging his weeping sixth wife, Kerrie, 22, and his daughter, Phoebe, 21. 'I depended on him but I depended on God, No. 1.'
Jury forewoman Alma Henderson, 39, manager of a local cafeteria, said the government failed to prove Lewis hid his assets by purchasing luxury cars, jewels and furs for friends.
'That's what convinced us to turn in the verdict of not guilty,' she said. 'They got to third base, but they didn't make it home.'
The Internal Revenue Service has collected -- partly through seizure of property and concert fees -- $501,315 of the $1,155,111 it claims Lewis owes in taxes, interest and penalties on his income from 1975 through 1980. The debt was nearly $150,000 more than Lewis earned for the period.
Ewing indicated it was unlikely the government would pursue criminal charges on the years listed in the indictment but 'if he attempts to start evading from now we could pursue that.'
The eight-woman, four-man jury, told by the defense that Lewis has only a sixth-grade education and left his financial matters to others, deliberated three hours and 45 minutes over two days before finding Lewis innocent.
Lewis gave a big hug to juror Pamela Watts, secretary with a local finance company, whom he spotted in a tunnel leading to a parking garage beneath the federal building.
'They failed to prove that he hid anything from anybody,' Watts said. 'He never hid any of his assets. His cars had nothing to do with it.'
Juror Annette Shannon said she thinks Lewis is 'pretty honest.'
'The proof was there, and he knew that he hadn't paid his income taxes,' she said. 'I'm sure he will pay them but he has spent a lot of money on other things.'
Lewis, who this summer underwent a second operation for a torn stomach lining, was asked by reporters if he planned to pay his taxes.
'If I can get a good G.I. loan I've got it made,' he quipped.
Asked if he was ever worried about the verdict, Lewis replied, 'No sir, not really. I was a little concerned. If I had been guilty I would have been really nervous. I knew I wasn't guilty. But you never know what's going to happen.'
Lewis, 49, who rocketed to fame in the 1950s with the songs 'Whole Lotta Shakin'' and 'Great Balls of Fire, had harsh words for prosecutors who claimed he hid his assets by buying luxury cars, furs and gifts for friends and threatened to 'blow the heads off' of IRS agents who seized his property.
Gosnell said the jury apparently decided Lewis 'was too important a person to be convicted. He's been in trouble before and always gotten out of it because of who he is. I think that happened today. Apparently he can continue to flaunt the entire system without consequences.'
Prosecutors maintained Lewis walked away from his house with a box full of $100 bills, and bought such items as a Cadillac Eldorado during a three-year spending spree to hide his assets and avoid paying his income tax.
The defense claimed Lewis' tax problems resulted from a change in managers and his own inability to handle financial matters.
Lewis was critical of McRae, who Wednesday dismissed a defense motion for acquittal and said Lewis apparently felt he was 'above the law.'
'He said some things about me before the trial,' said Lewis. 'He said I had a lot of hardship and tragedy and that sort of thing, but that I brought it on myself. I didn't know he was God.'
Jerry Lee Lewis' driver told a federal court Tuesday the rock 'n' roll star was so angry when Internal Revenue Service agents seized his property he warned 'they might get their head blowed off.'
Arthur Thompson told the second day of Lewis' income tax evasion trial how IRS agents seized the piano-thumping singer's cars, jewelers and other property and showed up at concerts to confiscate his fees.
Thompson, who was Lewis' driver and valet, was asked how Lewis reacted to the seizures.
'He said if anybody messed around with his property they might get their head blowed off,' Thompson said.
Thompson said Lewis cut short a concert in Chicago after IRS agents seized his fees, saying, 'no pay, no play.'
'Did you ever hear Mr. Lewis say anything about not paying his taxes?' the prosecutor asked.
'I never heard him say anything about hiding anything,' Thompson said.
The prosecution rested its case after Mississippi State Trooper Creekmore B. Wright testified he saw Lewis carry a large cash box packed with $100 bills from his Nesbit, Miss., home on Aug. 24, 1983.
Wright said he was helping secure the home after Lewis' fifth wife, Shawn Michelle Lewis, was found dead of a Methadone overdose.
Wright said he saw Lewis walk out of a bedroom with the cash box and told the singer he could not take anything pertinent to the investigation of his wife's death.
But the trooper said he allowed Lewis to take the cash box after being showed it contained money. Wright estimated the box contained $500,000 to $700,000.
Prosecutors claim Lewis used the cash to buy luxury cars, jewelry and furs for others to hide his assets and avoid paying income taxes.
Witnesses testified Lewis bought $73,500 worth of jewelry in Hawaii, plunked down $12,000 in cash in a lease-purchase arrangement for a Rolls Royce, and bought his girlfriend a $25,500 Cadillac Eldorado.
Attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service claim Lewis' tax bill, including interest and penalties, was $1,155,111 for 1975-1980, nearly $150,000 more than he earned during that period. He still owes over $653,000.
Defense attorneys blame the problems of the 49-year-old singer, who rocketed to fame in the 1950s with the songs 'Whole Lotta Shakin' and 'Great Balls of Fire,' on Lewis' lack of business sense and a change in managers.
Prosecutor Devon Gosnell said Lewis went on a spree from 1980 to 1983, buying cars for cash in the names of other people, buying jewelry for friends and associates, and giving his girlfriend $80,000 in cash to hold for him.
'In 1983, he left his house with a box stuffed with $100 bills, probably thousands of dollars, but he didn't pay his taxes. He put his assets in other people's names, and when you put your assets in other people's names, that's called evasion,' said Gosnell.
Behind closed doors at 1595 Malone Road, the Killer stumbled down the long hallway of his rambling ranch style home. He clutched his stomach and slid down a wall. Searing pain engulfed his abdomen.
“K.K.!” he called to his then girlfriend. The Killer was lucky she heard him. His voice was little more than a harsh raspy whisper.
Mary Kathy Jones stopped dead in her tracks when she saw him. He was white as a sheet and coughing up blood.
Jones and long time road manager J.W. Whitten carried the Killer to his El Dorado Cadillac. Whitten floorboarded it all the way Methodist Hospital in Memphis while the Killer leaned against Jones, drifting in and out of consciousness, constantly moaning and thrashing.
All three of them were in the front seat. Jones had wanted to call an ambulance but there was no time.
Jerry Lee Lewis, one of the founding fathers of Rock and Roll, was dying from a ruptured stomach brought on by years of knocking back fistfuls of pills with countless shots of whiskey and, yes, even shooting dope into his gut.
Nine days later singer songwriter Kris Kristofferson sat at the bedside of his long time friend and mentor.
Myra Brown Lewis, the Killer’s third wife and cousin–he married her when she thirteen years old, setting off international outrage while simultaneously (and temporarily, as it turned out) destroying his career–had called him in.
The Killer was on a respirator but he was alert. His eyes were wide and glazing intense.
Kristofferson clasped Jerry Lee’s hand.
“I’ve never seen someone so terrified,” the singer recalled. “That man willed himself to stay alive.”
The Killer had good reason to be afraid. He was deathly afraid of going to hell.
Mary Kathy 'K.K.' Jones of San Antonio, Texas, told jurors she lived with the piano-thumping rock 'n' roller from 1980 to 1983 and used cash he gave her to buy more than $63,000 worth of jewelry, furs, cars and furniture.
She said she and Lewis picked out the Eldorado and she and a maid picked it up at a Memphis dealership on Dec. 3, 1982, paying for the car with $25,550 in cash. She said Lewis also bought a $15,128 red Mustang for her during the same year.
Jones said she placed in a safety deposit box rented under a bogus name $80,000 in cash she took from a dresser drawer in Lewis' Nesbit, Miss., home in 1981, when the singer was hospitalized for a stomach tear.
'Everybody was wanting me to turn it (the money) over to them,' Jones said of Lewis' family and friends. 'Jerry wanted me to take it to my mother's in Texas.'
A weeping Jones, fashionably dressed and her blond hair cut short, testified she was told by attorney Irvin Salky, one of Lewis' defense attorneys, to place the money in a safety deposit box in another name.
Under cross-examination she said she asked Salky's advice on where to put the money for safekeeping during the singer's illness.
Al Embry, Lewis' tour director, testified Lewis didn't handle his own financial affairs. 'He mainly relies on other people to take care of things for him,' Embry said.
Embry said he had known Lewis for 20 years and the singer never had a personal bank acount.
'Did Jerry Lee Lewis ever tell you he wanted to hide money to keep from paying taxes?' defense attorney Bill Clifton asked Embry
'No,' Embry responded.
Clifton asked Embry whether Lewis referred to his tax problems. 'Most of the time he would say, 'It's being taken care of,'' Embry said.
Oct. 19, 1984
Kenny Lovelace, Me, and James Burton, backstage at HOB NOLA - Mack said it was about playing touch football with elvis
Jerry Lee Lewis Files Bankruptcy Petition
November 9, 1988
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Rock pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis filed a personal bankruptcy petition listing more than $3 million in debts, including $2 million owed to the Internal Revenue Service, court records show.
Lewis filed the petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Tuesday. It lists 22 creditors seeking more than $3 million, including hospital fees.
The 53-year-old rock pianist and singer has had his ups and downs with the IRS and health problems for more than 10 years.
Lewis listed his address as being in Nesbit, Miss., which is nearly 10 miles south of Memphis.
Debts listed in the petition include:
- About $950,000 to George Cunningham and The Whiskey River Club in Nashville.
- ″Alleged attorney fees″ of $40,000 to Memphis lawyer Irving Salky.
- $15,500 to Doctors Hospital in Memphis, now known as Eastwood Hospital.
- $10,000 to St. Francis Hospital in Memphis.
- $3,000 to Baptist Hospital in Memphis.
- $5,000 to Memphis lawyer Marvin Ratner.
- $119 to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.
Other debts include lease payments for a Cadillac and a Corvette, possible state income taxes in Mississippi and court costs in Shelby County, Nashville, and St. Louis.
The performer’s life is the subject of the movie ″Great Balls of Fire″ starring Dennis Quaid as Lewis. The movie, which is being shot in Memphis, deals with a 1 1/2 -year period of the entertainer’s life from late 1956 to late 1958. It does not deal with the lawsuits and health problems of the last few years of his life.
In 1984, Lewis was found innocent of evading taxes, but the verdict didn’t lessen his tax liability. The next year, IRS agents seized property from Lewis’ ranch near Nesbit.
They took, at least, two cars, a jet ski and a mechanical bucking bull.
More than 60 personal items were taken from Lewis in 1979 to satisfy a $274,000 tax debt.
The property included several automobiles, a tractor, five motorcycles, jewelry, musical instruments, home entertainment equipment and firearms.
An auction of property was held in 1980, but only 150 potential bidders showed up.
The auction produced only $91,382, less than a third of the debt.