CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wesley Snipes Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison

From the New York Times: The actor Wesley Snipes was sentenced to a maximum of three years in federal prison on Thursday for three misdemeanor convictions of failure to file his income taxes.

Mr. Snipes was also sentenced to one year of supervised release. He remained free Thursday, and will be notified later when he should report to prison.

His lawyer requested a facility not too far from his family’s home in New Jersey, and the judge said he would recommend that.

Mr. Snipes was convicted by a federal jury on Feb. 1 on three of the lesser charges that he faced and was acquitted on the most serious charges.

The case was the most prominent tax prosecution since the billionaire hotelier Leona Helmsley was convicted of tax fraud in 1989. Mr. Snipes, who has built a worldwide following acting in films like the “Blade” vampire trilogy, had become an unlikely public face for the tax denier movement, whose members maintain that Americans are not obligated to pay income taxes and that the government extracts taxes from its citizens illegally.

Tax deniers assert variously that the tax laws are valid but do not apply to them, that no law makes anyone liable for taxes and that the government tricks people into paying. Promoters of tax denial claim that people can legally stop paying income taxes by executing certain documents, or by not signing others, like tax returns. Courts have rejected all these arguments.

Thursday, after a day-long hearing, Federal District Judge William Terrell Hodges talked of the importance of deterrence in tax cases and noted that, despite Mr. Snipes’ apology in court, he had a years-long record of defying the tax laws.

No fine was imposed. The judge left that to the civil process.

Read the full article here.

Professor Douglas Berman has blogged on the Snipes case in detail. See e.g., here and here.
[Brooks Holland]

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