Rep. Earle Banks, D-Jackson, asks a question at the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson on Oct. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

State Rep. Earle Banks, a Democrat representing Jackson in the House since 1993, faces a federal criminal charge for allegedly evading payment of federal income taxes.

According to court documents unsealed this month, Banks reported $38,237 in income on his 2018 federal tax returns even though he “knew that he had received more than $500,000 in additional income in August 2018 from profits from the sale of real estate.”

Banks, the 68-year-old who was elected to the Legislature in 1992, is accused of “willfully making a false material statement on a federal income tax return.”

Jackson attorney Rob McDuff, who is representing Banks, said in a statement: “Mr. Banks made a mistake on his tax return in 2018 and failed to include a capital gain. We have cooperated with the IRS and the U.S. Attorney’s Office as they have looked into this matter, and we will continue that cooperation in moving toward a final resolution.”

The maximum penalty is three years in prison, a $250,000 fine and one year supervised release, according to court documents.

Banks, an attorney and funeral home director, is an active member of the Mississippi Democratic Party. In 2020, he ran unsuccessfully for chairman of the state party after serving four years as second-in-command of the party’s executive committee.

In 2012, Banks ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Bill Waller Jr. for a seat on the state Supreme Court.

Banks is unopposed for reelection later this year to his Jackson House seat. It does not appear a conviction would keep Banks from serving in the Legislature. The Mississippi Constitution bars anyone convicted of most state or federal felonies from serving in the House or Senate, but Section 44 of the state constitution exempts federal tax crimes from being a disqualifying offense.

“This section shall not disqualify a person from holding office if he has been pardoned for the offense or if the offense of which the person was convicted was manslaughter, any violation of the United States Internal Revenue Code or any violation of the tax laws of this state unless such offense also involved misuse or abuse of his office or money coming into his hands by virtue of his office,” the Mississippi Constitution says.

Banks, who was released on $10,000 bond, is scheduled to appear in federal court on May 17.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.