Intent is irrelevant. Evidence of intent is unnecessary. Whether intentional, reckless or negligent, this is a case of spoliation of evidence and a finder of fact can make a "negative evidentiary inference" i.e. the defendant is guilty as hell.
This procedure was tested in a 2013 Texas case. TX Supreme Court reversed a trial court concluding "that a spoliation inference instruction to the jury is only warranted in egregious cases of destruction of relevant evidence."
Who could contend that "422 backup tapes" erased is not egregious?
As for the "employees didn't know" argument:
Companies and organizations often attempt to avoid spoliation of evidence (or being accused or held liable therewith) by using a legal hold. Often, the legal departments of the company or organization will issue a prescribed order to the relevant employees to retain and preserve their discoverable materials (such as e-mails and documents).
IRS officers are also, therefore, "guilty as hell."
Sorry, I don't think you read the article. It said that they didn't know what was up and there was no evidence that they did anything wrong on purpose. They just happened to delete 422 backup tapes (we do that all the time where I work!). But the article made it quite clear they did nothing wrong.
I echo JG's, especially the first paragraph. Not only do the circumstances allow a reasonable person to infer guilt, but the spoliation all but requires it.
Simply put, either this is the most bizarre chain of accidents, to the point that the entire IRS is inept to the point of being incompetent from top to bottom or, what is more likely, the evidence was destroyed because somebody WANTED it destroyed.
Any private company worth its weight in potato peelings would have moved heaven and earth to preserve the evidence, out of fear of wrath from on high. The fact that the IRS didn't is a strong argument that the guilty actors had reason to believe there would be no repercussions.
I will add one bit of trivia: anyone who's ever been through an audit, or had to deal with a negative finding from the IRS, knows that this is a jurisdiction where the accused has zero presumption of innocence before being found guilty. The IRS needs to be held to its own standard.
Elect me President, and the IRS will be eliminated, all of its employees terminated, and their pensions cancelled. Think of it as the agency and its accomplices paying their debt to society.
I cannot pledge through November, but I think you have solved my problem. I will be writing in your name, Keith.
You two are, of course, correct. What an enfeebled press we have that allows this.
TaxProfBlog is up to The IRS Scandal, Day 1125. Linked, dutifully every day on Instapundit. I remember thinking it amusing when they got close to 365. "How long can they possibly...?"
I think we're all old enough to remember Watergate. It became annoying that every frikken' day they would pursue some small lead. WIthout the press push, I don't think anything ever would have happened. This is wrapped up in a pretty bow for any major media outlet. Naah...
I'm going to amend my comment. What I proposed is just a down payment on the IRS paying its debt to society.
I have, if you will, a modest proposal. We have two problems: an outlaw IRS, and a Navy committed to green fuel sources.
When I'm President, I will frogmarch the IRS down to the Navy yard, and each former employee will be escorted to a bench and chained to his or her oar. How many of them do you think it will take to get an aircraft carrier moving at thirty-five knots?
JK is right. Y'all [correction: WE all] are overreacting. I did not read the article before I commented, but I have done so since. There was nothing "wrong" but merely a "mistake" and some things that are "troubling."
We should all remember that government employees are people too, and can make mistakes. Like Spiro Agnew's bribery and tax fraud "errors", the Nixon Administration's Watergate "boo boo", or Ronald Reagan's Iran Contra "hiccup." Nobody should be jailed or even forced to resign their life-long career simply on account of basic human fallibility.
Especially not a Democrat.
Scooter Libby's "indiscretion." Gen. Petraeus's "indelicacy." Oh, how we'll all laugh about these in a few years.