Friday, October 12, 2007
LawProf Blog emperor Paul Caron on the TaxProf Blog reports (here) on actor Wesley Snipes changing counsel for his upcoming tax fraud trial in Florida. The judge initially denied the request for a continuance because of the change of counsel, finding that Snipes was improperly trying to delay the trial. The judge has now ordered a ninety-day continuance (see order below), in response to a motion for reconsideration (also available below) that is amazing for its attack on Snipes' prior attorney. In the motion, the new lawyer attacks all aspects of the prior representation, including the interesting claim that the attorney's lack of due diligence came to Snipes' attention from his representation of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick on dog fighting charges.
How does the Vick case have anything to do with a tax evasion charge, you might ask? According to the motion, Snipes -- who played Indians center fielder Willie May Hays in the two Major League movies (YouTube clip here) -- became concerned because his former counsel seemed to misunderstand the dual sovereignty doctrine that permitted state prosecutors to indict Vick for conduct that was the subject of the federal prosecution. At that point, Snipes sought out his new lawyer, who had earlier represented him on a New York state civil matter. It's hard to see how the representation of Vick influenced Snipes' decision to change counsel, but that apparently is what got the ball rolling. The motion notes that Snipes plans to raise a selective prosecution claim, which is a difficult one to win.
The district court refused to credit new counsel's claims of ineffective representation by his predecessor. According to the continuance order, the judge asked whether Snipes planned to file a bar complaint against his prior attorney, and the answer was negative, so "the Court declines to place any credence in the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel." Instead, the court granted the motion due to the "irreconcilable differences" between Snipes and his prior counsel, although it probably didn't help much that the old lawyer labeled his last filing a "Motion to Withdrawal." The tone of the continuance order makes it clear the judge remains suspicious of Snipes, which usually does not bode well. The case will now begin in January 2008. (ph)