| OCALA, Florida
OCALA, Florida A "very sorry" Wesley Snipes,
star of the "Blade" movies, was sentenced to three years in
prison on Thursday for willfully failing to file U.S. income
tax returns for 1999 through 2001.
Snipes was convicted in February on three misdemeanor
counts. U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges handed down
the maximum sentence and said he felt it was important to
create a general deterrent against tax defiance.
"I am very sorry for my mistakes and errors," Snipes told
the judge. "This will never happen again."
He read a prepared statement, describing himself as an
"idealist, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritual-seeking
artist" who epitomized the expression "mo' money, mo'
His lawyers tried to give the court three envelopes with
checks totaling $5 million, but the judge and prosecutor said
they could not accept the payments. An Internal Revenue Service
agent collected the money during a recess.
The judge said prison officials would notify Snipes when to
begin serving his sentence. Snipes said he would appeal the
verdict but prosecutors vowed to oppose any request to allow
him to remain free on bond while the appeal is pending.
Prosecutors said Snipes had earned more than $38 million
since 1999 but still had not filed tax returns for the years
1999 through 2007 or paid any taxes prior to Thursday.
They accused Snipes of presenting himself as a victim and
called the checks a "grandstanding move" that would turn out to
be only a fraction of what he owes the IRS.
They said the notoriety of the case presented a "singular
opportunity" to deter tax crimes nationwide.
Snipes was acquitted on two felony charges of filing false
claims and fraud in seeking millions of dollars of refunds in
other tax years.
The judge did not fine him but the IRS still could levy
penalties and interest charges in addition to the taxes owed.
Snipes brought character references from actors Denzel
Washington and Woody Harrelson. His lawyer, Linda Moreno, said
Snipes had led "an otherwise exemplary life" and had hired
reputable tax professionals to help him resolve his tax
liability and make amends.
She said Snipes owed less than $400,000 in taxes for the
three years related to the convictions and should not be
Moreno cited the cases of former Washington mayor Marion
Barry and singer/actor Marc Anthony, who avoided prison after
failing to file tax returns, and singer Willie Nelson, who
remained free despite owing $17 million in back taxes.
Co-defendant Eddie Ray Kahn, a longtime tax protester who
coached clients of his American Rights Litigators on how to
beat the tax system, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Co-Defendant Douglas Rosile, whom prosecutors called a
"defrocked certified public accountant," was sentenced to 4-1/2
years for his part in the scheme. Both were convicted of
conspiracy and tax fraud.
Prosecutors said Kahn and Rosile were "incorrigible tax
offenders" whose anti-tax schemes caused "enormous damage to
the administration of our tax system." They said at least nine
other Kahn customers had been convicted of criminal tax
violations and two had been indicted.