Wesley Snipes faces 3 years for tax conviction

Fri Feb 1, 2008 6:59pm EST
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By Barbara Liston

OCALA, Florida (Reuters) - Actor Wesley Snipes, star of the "Blade" movie series, was found guilty of three misdemeanors by a U.S. court on Friday for failing to file tax returns but was acquitted of more serious charges.

The 45-year-old actor faces up to three years in prison, prosecutors said.

Snipes had been charged with six misdemeanor counts of failing to file tax returns and felony counts of tax fraud and conspiracy, and could have faced up to 16 years behind bars.

The trial, before a jury in Ocala, 80 miles northwest of Orlando, took place in the rural township because it was near the celebrity enclave of Isleworth, where prosecutors say Snipes lived at the time of the suspected fraud.

Prosecutors had alleged that Snipes failed to file tax returns for the years 1999 to 2004 and sought refunds totaling more than $11 million for taxes paid in 1996 and 1997. He was convicted of not filing returns for three of the years.

Snipes' lawyer, Robert Bernhoft, said the actor didn't file his tax returns because he was waiting for the Internal Revenue Service to answer his inquiries about the need to file them, and always stood "ready to pay and file."

Bernhoft said Snipes got no meaningful response from the IRS to his requests for interviews, conferences, appeals and audits.

Snipes' co-defendants, well-known anti-tax activist Eddie Ray Kahn and former accountant Douglas Rosile, were both found guilty of conspiracy and filing false claims for tax refunds for Snipes and could face up to 10 years in prison.   Continued...

<p>Wesley Snipes leaves the U.S. Courthouse in Ocala, Florida, January 31, 2008. Snipes is accused of failing to pay tax on $38 million from 1999 to 2004, and could face up to 16 years in jail. The jury is in their second day of deliberation. REUTERS/Michael Weimar</p>