Paul L. Caron

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Denzel & Woody Urge Probation for Wesley Snipes; Government's Battle Against Tax Protesters at Risk in Today's Sentencing

I previously blogged the Government's sentencing memo in the Wesley Snipes case, in which prosecutors urged the federal district court in Florida to sentence the actor to the maximum three years in prison and $5 million fine for his conviction on three misdemeanor tax charges (he was acquitted of the more serious felony tax fraud charges). In advance of today's sentencing, Snipes' defense counsel have filed a sentencing memo requesting probation:

At age 45, after a life-time of hard work and dedication to his family, to his craft and to the struggle to better himself, Wesley Trent Snipes stands before the Court to be sentenced on three misdemeanor charges that he willfully failed to file income tax returns for the years 1999, 2000, and 2001 in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 7203. He is contrite, promises that he will never again break the law, and respectfully asks the Court to consider not just the jury verdict but also all the good that he has done in his life. He asks this Honorable Court to impose a sentence that does not include imprisonment.

The memo attaches over three dozen letters attesting to Snipes' good character, including letters from Denzel Washington (calling Snipes "a mighty oak") and Woody Harrelson (noting that Snipes "strives for rightness in all his relations"):



Forbes describes what is at stake in today's sentencing:

When Wesley Trent Snipes is sentenced Thursday in an Ocala, Fla., courtroom for willfully failing to file federal income tax returns, more than the 45-year-old star's freedom will be on the line. Also at risk will be the government's efforts to staunch the spread of what it recently re-branded "tax defiers."

Tax defiers--or "tax protesters" as they've traditionally been known--glom onto one kooky, discredited theory or another as to why the income tax is illegal or doesn't apply to them personally or doesn't cover their normal sources of income. ...

Beyond Web sites and online groups, defiers are now using MySpace and YouTube to promote their ideas, reports Maryland insurance analyst JJ MacNab, who has testified before Congress and maintains Web sites tracking the tax protester movement. With these newer methods, the demographics of the tax defiers are shifting too, she says.

"I've watched it go from middle-aged white guys meeting in hotels and Denny's to all races, both sexes and younger, and they're meeting online," MacNab said. That new demographic makes it an even bigger problem for the government, if Snipes, the star of action flicks and the vampire-hunting Blade movies, walks free.

(Hat Tip:  Ben Cunningham.)  Other press and blogosphere coverage:

Celebrity Tax Lore | Permalink

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» WESLEY'S BIG DAY from Roth & Company, P.C.
Wesley Snipes will learn today how soon he can begin his next film project. He is scheduled to be sentenced... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 24, 2008 6:21:56 AM

» Denzel urges leniency in Snipes sentencing from Don't Mess With Taxes
Actor Wesley Snipes, convicted of three misdemeanor counts of of tax evasion back in February (blogged here), is to be sentenced today. Federal prosecutors have gone on record in seeking the maximum punishment for the actor: up to three years in prison... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 24, 2008 9:29:21 AM


At its worst, this is merely a crime of greed and hubris; a true victomless crime. Three years for misdemeanors? Give him and us a break. Fine his ass! Take lots and lots of his money away, but don't deprive him of his freedom and don't spend my tax dollars and tie-up our prisons doing it! If the man is free, he can earn more money, which the government can then seize (pardon me ... tax). Jailing the man for this is wrong, mean-spirited, and stupid.

Posted by: GJY | Apr 25, 2008 11:03:46 AM

I'm not commenting on guilt or innocence; I AM however commenting on the unreasonable nature of the're going to tell me that this man should be punished on a par with Corporate criminals (ENRON) who cheated the government and employees out of BILLIONS of dollars? If he were a CAUCASIAN executive under similar circumstances (that is, south of the Mason-Dixon Line), he WOULD have gotten the leniency in sentencing that Wes' attorneys asked for. Just so you know, this isn't a racial tirade; I am white....JWL

Posted by: John W. Lee | Apr 24, 2008 4:14:21 PM

"District Court Judge William Terrell Hodges warned Snipes before breaking for lunch that sentencing guidelines pointed towards a three-year sentence."

Posted by: Adjunct Law Prof. | Apr 24, 2008 1:49:44 PM

More power to Denzel, Woody and Wesley Snipes.

Posted by: Hello | Apr 24, 2008 12:47:41 PM