Friday, February 1, 2008
The press (here, here, here, and here) is reporting that Wesley Snipes has been found guilty of three misdemeanors and not guilty of the charges that carried more severe penalties. Unlike his co-defendants, Snipes was acquitted of the conspiracy charge that he faced.
The indictment against Snipes had charged him with conspiracy under section 371, and if convicted this charge could have produced a hefty sentence for the actor. In addition to being found not guilty on this charge, Snipes was also acquitted of count two which charged him with a fraud related offense under 18 U.S.C. 287. Finally, the government was only successful on half of the tax charges brought against Snipes, in that he was acquitted of three of the years charged under 26 U.S.C. 7203.
The minor convictions for Snipes and major ones for his co-defendants sends the message that one cannot claim ignorance if they follow a promoter of a tax scheme. But more importantly, those who promote such conduct can be charged and convicted of crimes such as conspiracy.
The numerous acquittals in the Snipes case should be making the government wonder whether it was worth the time, cost, and effort to proceed criminally against him, and whether civil penalties may have been more appropriate.