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ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Actor Wesley Snipes was granted bail on Thursday pending an appeal of his conviction and sentencing last month to three years in prison for failing to file income tax returns for 1999 through 2001.
Snipes' lawyers and court officials in Ocala, Florida, said a judge had granted a request by the star of the "Blade" movie series to remain free on bond while he tries to overturn his federal tax convictions.
Snipes had been set to surrender to federal prison authorities during the first week of June to begin serving his sentence, and prosecutors had earlier vowed to oppose any request to allow him to remain free pending an appeal.
U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges wrote that he was "dubious" of Snipes appeal arguments. But Hodges agreed to bail, noting that Snipes otherwise could easily serve his entire sentence before a decision could be reached on his appeal.
Snipes, who had been indicted on felony tax fraud charges, was convicted only of three misdemeanors. At his sentencing in April, prosecutors said the actor had earned more than $38 million since 1999, but had filed no tax returns or paid any taxes.
The day of Snipes' sentencing, his lawyers brought checks totaling $5 million, which they gave to Internal Revenue Service agents during a recess.
In arguments for bail, his lawyers wrote that Snipes was "actively engaged in resolving his liabilities with the IRS civilly" and a meeting with the agency was scheduled for next week.