MADISON, Wis. -- Former major league pitcher Jerry Koosman pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion on Friday and could face up to one year in prison.
Koosman, an All-Star who helped the New York Mets win the 1969 World Series, failed to pay federal income taxes for 2002, 2003 and 2004, defrauding the government out of as much as $90,000, assistant U.S. attorney John Vaudreuil said. He also faces $25,000 in fines.
The 66-year-old Koosman makes his home in Osceola. He told investigators he researched federal tax laws and concluded they applied only to federal workers, corporate employees and District of Columbia residents, court documents said.
"I guess it's a combination of being naive and not being able to understand law as I read it or was told," Koosman told U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb during Friday's hearing.
Koosman played 19 seasons, including his first 12 with the Mets. He was an All-Star in 1968 and '69, and finished with a career record of 222-209 and a 3.36 ERA.
He and Tom Seaver were starting rotation staples for the 1969 team -- nicknamed the "Amazin' Mets" -- that passed the division-leading Chicago Cubs in the final month of the regular season to win the National League title en route to the World Series championship.
Koosman won two games in the World Series that year, giving up a run and two hits in 8 2-3 innings in Game 2 and three runs in a complete-game performance in Game 5 to clinch the series victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
He also won a game in the 1973 World Series, but the Mets lost the title to Oakland. The Mets traded him to the Minnesota Twins after the 1978 season, and he played the final seven seasons of his career with the Twins, Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.
He gave up Pete Rose's landmark 4,000th career hit in 1984 and retired after the 1985 season.
Federal prosecutors charged Koosman with misdemeanor tax evasion last month, capping a three-year investigation.
According to court documents, the IRS learned in 2005 Koosman hadn't filed any returns for 2002, 2003 and 2004. Using W-2 wage statements, the agency determined Koosman earned about $754,950 over those years, including about $130,000 from his Major League Baseball pension and $25,000 in 2002 alone for autographs and personal appearances.
He also had a stock sale in 2002 worth $551,881.
IRS Agents interviewed Koosman in March 2006. When they asked why he didn't file his taxes, he replied "Why should I?" and asked to see a law that mandated it.
He said he'd been researching federal tax law for seven years and hauled out three binders containing letters to the IRS challenging their procedures and other documents. The agents noticed his office contained books entitled "Know Your Rights" and "Tax Resolutions."
Vaudreuil said he agreed to charge Koosman with misdemeanor evasion for 2002 only in exchange for a guilty plea. Koosman's attorney, Brian Mahany, conceded Vaudreuil had enough evidence to win the case.
Koosman told Crabb he started researching tax law after a lien was placed on his property. The judge asked him if he got "suckered" into anti-tax rhetoric.
"Yes," he said.
Vaudreuil said Koosman has repaid all the delinquent taxes.
Crabb set his sentencing for July 21. Koosman remains free on a promise to return on that date.
"He's looking forward to coming back to court ... and closing the chapter," Mahany said.