Wesley Snipes jailed for 3 years in tax case

Fri Apr 25, 2008 3:39am EDT
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By Barbara Liston

OCALA, Florida (Reuters) - 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' problems."

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.   Continued...

<p>Actor Wesley Snipes (R) clasps his hands while walking into the federal courthouse for sentencing in Ocala, Florida April 24, 2008. REUTERS/Scott Audette</p>