Wesley Snipes gets prison time for tax crimes

Saying Wesley Snipes showed "contempt," a Florida judge sentenced the actor to three years in prison for failing to file income tax returns.

"These are serious crimes, albeit misdemeanors, because he has a history of contempt over time," said U.S. District Court Judge William Terrell Hodges during Snipes's sentencing hearing in Ocala, FL Thursday.

Hodges sentenced Snipes to the maximum sentence, one year for each misdemeanor count, to be served consecutively, Bloomberg reported. He must also pay all tax debts.

Snipes was found guilty in February of willfully failing to file taxes from 1999-2001. He was acquitted of three identical counts and two felony charges of tax fraud and conspiracy.

"I am very sorry for my mistakes and errors," Snipes told the judge yesterday. "As I was sitting here today, a street saying came to mind - more money, more problems." Reading from a prepared statement, he also said, "I am an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance."

Before the sentence was handed down, Snipes surprised the court by offering the IRS three checks totaling $5 million in unpaid taxes, money U.S. Attorney Scotland Morris at first dismissed as "a fraction of what he owes," but then accepted.

His lawyers signaled that they plan to appeal. His lawyers had urged the judge for home detention, bringing in letters from actors Denzel Washington, Woody Harrelson, and others testifying to Snipes's character.

Snipes, who starred in the "Blade" vampire movie trilogy, followed tactics used by people who claim the law doesn't require citizens to pay income tactics. These so-called tax deniers have been the target of the Justice Department, which pledged earlier this year to crack down.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Nathan Hochman told the court that the Snipes case was the first to be sentenced since the tax-denier initiative took effect.

His sentencing "sends a strong message that if you engage in tax defiance, there will be very serious repercussions," Hochman said.

Snipes's co-defendants, Douglas P. Rosile and Eddie Ray Kahn, were convicted on felony counts of tax fraud and conspiracy. Kahn, who refused to defend himself in court, was sentenced to the maximum 10 years. Rosile received 4 1/2 years.

Kahn was the founder of American Rights Litigators, and a successor group, Guiding Light of God Ministries, groups that claimed to help members legally avoid paying taxes. Snipes, who fought the IRS for years, was a dues-paying member of the organization. Rosile, a former accountant who lost his license, prepared Snipes's paperwork, the Associated Press reported.

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