Lawyers face off at start of Snipes tax fraud case

Wed Jan 16, 2008 2:58pm EST
 
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By Barbara Liston

OCALA, Florida (Reuters) - Defense attorneys clashed with the prosecution on Wednesday in Wesley Snipes' tax fraud trial over whether the actor conspired with a longtime tax protester to defraud the government of millions of dollars.

The star of the "Blade" movie series has been charged with six counts of failing to file tax returns, two of fraudulently claiming tax refunds and one count of conspiracy to defraud the government. He faces up to 16 years in prison.

Also on trial are Eddie Ray Kahn, a known tax protester, and a former accountant, Douglas Rosile.

Prosecutors allege 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.

"The defendants Snipes, Kahn and Rosile willfully agreed to defraud the United States of revenue it was due," prosecutor Robert O'Neill told the jury in his opening statement.

Snipes' lawyer, Robert Bernhoft, said Snipes was waiting for the IRS to answer his inquiries about his need to file returns, and always stood "ready to pay and file."

O'Neill told the jury that Snipes in 2000 joined Kahn's group, American Rights Litigators, whose focus is to "thwart the process of the IRS."

He called the group's main argument against the requirement to pay taxes a "bizarre, gibberish kind of idea."   Continued...

 
<p>Wesley Snipes (L) arrives with attorney Daniel Meachum (R) to stand trial for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and filing a false claim for a $7 million refund at the U.S. Federal Court in Ocala, Florida January 14, 2008. Defense attorneys clashed with the prosecution on Wednesday in Snipes' trial over whether the actor conspired with a longtime tax protester to defraud the government of millions of dollars. REUTERS/Scott Audette</p>