A federal judge sentenced veteran art dealer Mary Boone to 30 months in prison for filing false tax returns today in US District Court in Manhattan. She was granted up to one year of supervised release and will also serve 180 hours of community service working with New York City children.
Asked for comment on the decision, her lawyer said simply, “Disappointed.” He noted that Boone would most likely have to close her gallery, which works with artists including Ai Weiwei and Francesco Clemente. After the decision came down, Boone, dressed in a dark blue blazer, buried her face in her hands and several women in court were in tears. Her son and a number of friends embraced her in the room. Her lawyer said Boone has no plans to appeal.
Boone, who rose to prominence as a champion of artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Julian Schnabel in the high-flying ’80s art scene, faced as much as six years in jail. But her attorneys had asked the judge to consider a lesser sentence of home confinement, probation, and up to 1,000 hours of community service, arguing that her misdeeds were the result of early childhood trauma rather than greed. The sentencing, which was scheduled for noon today, had been pushed back twice last month.
Boone pleaded guilty in September to tax evasion and agreed to pay restitution to the IRS of just over $3 million, which the US Attorney’s office said represents the additional taxes due for returns filed in 2009, 2010, and 2011. The two counts of filing a false federal income tax return each carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Prosecutors said Boone engaged in a scheme to evade taxes by using money from the gallery to pay for personal expenses, such as jewelry purchases and apartment renovations, and then claiming them as business deductions. They also stated that she fraudulently reported a business loss of $53,000 in 2011 when, in reality, the gallery “made a profit of approximately $3.7 million.”
Boone—whose eponymous gallery has two locations in Manhattan—issued roughly $800,000 in business checks to pay for the remodel of her New York City apartment, according to prosecutors, and another $120,000 to rent a second apartment while the renovation was underway. She also characterized personal expenses, such as a $500,000 payment to a contractor, as a work-related “commission.”
Last month, Boone’s attorneys filed a lengthy memo in court asking the judge for leniency and citing the dealer’s history of childhood trauma, which they claimed led to mental illness, addiction, and an irrational fear that she would end up destitute. The memo contained 237 pages of exhibits, including an evaluation from Sanford Drob, a Brooklyn-based forensic psychologist, attesting to Boone’s mental illness. (Prosecutors responded that “Boone’s conduct clearly demonstrates that she was motivated by greed and a desire to maintain her lavish lifestyle.”)
In recent months, prominent art-world figures have rallied to Boone’s defense. Her lawyers’ memo included 100 letters vouching for Boone’s character, including missives from critic Jerry Saltz; art collectors Beth Rudin DeWoody and Peter Brant; Performa director RoseLee Goldberg; curator Neville Wakefield; dealers Barbara Gladstone, Lucy Mitchell-Innes, Jack Shainman, and Jeffrey Deitch; and artists Ai Weiwei, Laurie Simmons, Ross Bleckner, and Julian Schnabel.
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