JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
On May 11, 1982, the Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed a one-count complaint against respondent, Henry A. Towles, who was admitted to the practice of law on January 9, 1950. A panel of the Hearing Board recommended that respondent be censured, and the Administrator filed exceptions. Four members of the Review Board found that censure was "a reasonable and appropriate discipline," and four found that respondent should be suspended for a period of six months. We allowed the Administrator's petition for leave to file exceptions. 87 Ill.2d R. 753(e).
The record shows that on August 4, 1980, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois filed a three-count complaint charging respondent with wilful failure to file income tax returns for calendar years 1974, 1975 and 1976 in violation of Title 26 U.S.C. § 7203 (1976). The cause was tried before a jury, and a verdict of guilty was returned on all three counts. The district court found that, aside from these convictions, respondent was a "stellar citizen" and had not, through his actions, intended to defraud the United States, but had intended to eventually file his returns and pay his taxes along with interest and penalties. The court entered judgment on the verdict and sentenced respondent to five years' probation with the condition that the first 45 days be spent in a jail-type institution. The judgment was modified to permit respondent to serve the sentence on weekends so that he could continue his practice of law while on probation.
In his evidence deposition respondent testified that during the years 1974, 1975 and 1976 he was engaged in an embittered dispute with his ex-wife concerning visitation rights with his son and that in order to see each other his son and he had to meet surreptitiously. Respondent stated that he first became aware that his failure to file returns constituted criminal misconduct on March 22, 1978, when Internal Revenue Service agents visited him at his office. He testified that he had paid all taxes, penalties, and interest owed to the Federal Government.
Due to failing health respondent was not able to attend the proceedings before the Hearing Board but authorized his attorney to proceed in his absence. It was stipulated that respondent was born on March 4, 1914, in Texarkana, Arkansas. Respondent's attorney explained that respondent was 68 years old at the time of the hearing and introduced into evidence numerous letters from respondent's clients which had been sent to the district judge who sentenced respondent. These letters explained that respondent had performed a significant amount of pro bono work for the people in his community and asked the judge to "show him every consideration possible." A letter from a Chicago attorney stated that he knew respondent well through working with and against him on various matters. This attorney stated that respondent "has contributed immeasurably to his community by his associations in various social clubs as well as his contributions to various community activities, especially during the trying times of the 1960's."
The panel of the Hearing Board made the following findings:
"1. That on March 12, 1981, Respondent was convicted of willful failure to file income tax returns for the years 1974, 1975 and 1976 in violation of Title 26 United States code section 7203. He was sentenced to five years of probation with the first 45 days to be spent in jail. The conviction was upheld by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on December 8, 1981.
2. That the sentence of 45 days was modified, upon Respondent's request, to 22 1/2 weekends. The purpose of this was to permit Respondent to continue his practice of law. At that time, Judge Grady found no intention on the part of the Respondent to commit fraud.
3. That Respondent filed his 1970 return in April of 1973; his 1971 and 1972 returns in January of 1975 and his 1973 return in February of 1977.
4. That in March of 1978, Respondent was visited by Special Agents inquiring as to the returns for the years 1974, 1975 and 1976.
5. That the Respondent filed the returns for 1974 and 1975 in April of 1978 and the return for 1976 in August of 1978.
6. That all taxes, penalties and interest due and owing from 1971 through 1976 were paid.
7. That Respondent does not practice in the field of taxation and has not represented clients in tax matters.
8. That until September of 1979, the Respondent was not aware that he could be held criminally liable for his conduct and believed that the penalties and ...