Wesley Snipes was sentenced to three years in prison on tax charges today, a victory for prosecutors who sought to make an example of the action star by aggressively pursuing the maximum penalty.
Snipes' lawyers had spent much of the day in court offering dozens of letters from family members, friends -- even fellow actors Woody Harrelson and Denzel Washington -- attesting to the good character of the "Blade" star and asking for leniency. They argued he should get only probation because his three convictions were all misdemeanors and the actor had no previous criminal record.
But U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges said Snipes exhibited a "history of contempt over a period of time" for U.S. tax laws, and granted prosecutors the three year sentence they requested -- one year for each of Snipes' convictions of willfully failing to file a tax return.
"In my mind these are serious crimes, albeit misdemeanors," Hodges said.
Snipes apologized while reading from a written statement for his "costly mistakes," but never mentioned the word taxes.
"I am an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance," Snipes said.
Snipes said his wealth and celebrity attracted "wolves and jackals like flies are attracted to meat." He called himself "well-intentioned, but miseducated."
Snipes was the highest-profile criminal tax target in years, and prosecutors called for a heavy sentence to deter others from trying to obstruct the IRS. The government alleged Snipes made at least $13.8 million for the years in question and owed $2.7 million in back taxes.
Snipes was acquitted in February of five additional charges, including felony tax fraud and conspiracy. Snipes' co-defendants, Douglas P. Rosile and Eddie Ray Kahn, were convicted on both those counts. Kahn, who refused to defend himself in court, was sentenced to 10 years, while Rosile received 54 months. Both will serve three years of supervised release. Snipes will serve one year of supervised release.
Snipes and Rosile remain free and will be notified when they are to surrender to authorities.
Kahn was the founder of American Rights Litigators, and a successor group, Guiding Light of God Ministries, that purported to help members legally avoid paying taxes. Rosile, a former accountant who lost his licenses in Ohio and Florida, prepared Snipes' paperwork.
Snipes maintained in a years-long battle with the IRS he did not have to pay taxes, using fringe arguments common to "tax protesters" who say the government has no legal right to collect. After joining Kahn's group, the government said Snipes instructed his employees to stop paying their own taxes and sought $11 million in 1996 and 1997 taxes he legally paid.
Prosecutors sought to justify the maximum sentence by raising those and other details from the IRS investigation, as well as a tax loss even for years in which Snipes was acquitted of failing to file a return. Such "relevant conduct" is allowed by law for a judge's consideration at sentencing.
Criminal tax prosecutions are relatively rare -- usually the cases are handled in civil court, where the government has a lower burden of proof. Prosecutors said Snipes' case was important to send a message to would-be tax protesters not to test the government.
no it isn't people usually don't go to jail for tax evasion unless something else criminal is involved. this is b.s. eventhough wesley was an idiot to think he could get away with it he had piss poor representation or didn't listen.
18. "Who Stole the Soul - 2008" In response to Reply # 0
Then let's get down to the nitty-gritty Like I wanna know who Picked Wilson's pocket After, he rocket it Fact, he shocked it Same kinda thing they threw at James An what did to Redd was a shame The the Black get The bigger the feds want A piece of that ... booty -Chuck D
History doesn't support the arguments about race not playing a role.
A trial that at times seemed to exist in parallel universes, with accepted law in one dimension and Robert Beale in the other, came back firmly to earth Wednesday.
Ignoring Beale's indignation, religious beliefs and obscure interpretations of the U.S. Constitution and philosophy, a federal jury in Minneapolis took only two hours to find him guilty of all seven counts brought against him for tax evasion, conspiracy and fleeing authorities.
The former millionaire CEO of Comtrol Corp. in Maple Grove now faces up to 10 years in prison.
The trial in U.S. District Court lasted eight days and featured more than 100 exhibits, some about arcane tax laws.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Rank repeatedly told jurors: "This isn't a complicated case; it is what it looks like, and it looks like tax evasion."
Rank and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Cheever argued that Beale deceived and conspired to hide more than $5 million in income for which he owed more than $1.6 million in taxes.
His greed and arrogance were simply cloaked in anti-tax arguments from the radical fringe, prosecutors argued.
The former North Oaks resident, who said he was once worth $20 million, fled rather than face the government in court when he was originally charged in 2006. He was captured in Florida after 14 months on the run.
The trial was attended by IRS officials, prosecutors and, on occasion, members of anti-tax groups. Beale, acting as his own lawyer, tried repeatedly to veer from the evidence against him to argue over the meaning of the U.S. Constitution and the enforcement of the tax code.
"We, the people, need to be diligent," Beale began. "Powerful people take shortcuts around the law." He then tried to reinterpret the 14th Amendment before being told to stick to the evidence.
He sat passively as the verdict was read. His fiancee, Mun Suk Kim, put her head down on the seat in front of her and cried. She later declined to comment.
In closing arguments, Rank summed up the case presented through witnesses that included former bookkeepers, employees and government agents.
From 2000 through 2004, Beale directed employees to pay him through a shell company, Chayil Corp., in order to hide his income. After the Minnesota Department of Revenue issued subpoenas for pay documents, Beale removed them from the building and stopped sending invoices. He eventually was paid through cashier's checks and sent money to Swiss bank accounts.
Meanwhile, Beale sent "nonsense" documents to the IRS and Minnesota Department of Revenue that pretended to offer financial information or challenge laws, in case his income was discovered. Those "distraction and manipulation" tactics are common among tax protesters, Rank argued.
When those attempts failed, Beale fled. While on the run, Beale, through a son, tried to get $600,000 from his Swiss bank account to buy property in Switzerland. He also filed a phoney document to have a lien removed on a seized property, which he then tried to sell.
When Beale was arrested in November at a strip mall in Orlando, Fla., he was carrying a fake passport and driver's license issued from "The Kingdom of Heaven," something he had copied off the Internet.
Last week, as Beale appeared on the tax charges, he was hit with a new criminal complaint, this one accusing him and four supporters of conspiring to disrupt the proceedings and intimidate the judge.
"God ... wants me to take the judge out, that's what he wants me to do," Beale allegedly told his fiancée on a tape-recorded call from jail. "Once I take down Ann Montgomery, no judge in the whole court will have anything to do with me."
'Twisted, evil story'
In his closing statements, Beale was by turns contrite and angry. He apologized for causing "such a waste of time and resources because of my beliefs."
Beale tried several times to argue that the U.S. Constitution identifies anyone outside the District of Columbia and U.S. islands as "non-resident aliens," but was stopped by Montgomery.
Beale also accused the government of misconstruing his motives. "To me it is absolutely amazing how you can take a set of facts and infer such a twisted, evil story," he said. "It's no wonder people are afraid."
The numerous documents he filed with the IRS and courts were frustrated attempts to debate the government on the tax code, he argued, "but nobody listens."
"I realize now that people don't want to hear this," he said.
Most of the letters and documents were written with the help of well-known tax protesters. Rank pointed out that every one of them had also been convicted of tax fraud.
Beale also tried to shift blame to his bookkeeper, Eileen Johnson, for failing to turn in the proper documents to the IRS.
But Rank showed that Johnson, after being ordered by Beale to keep financial disclosures from the government, was the person who turned him in.
"Mr. Beale talked a lot about honesty and integrity and standing up for what's right," said Rank. "We did see an example of that in this case, but it didn't come from Robert Beale."
It came, instead, from Johnson and another employee, Lee Aide, who became informants.
"We are very pleased with today's verdict," said acting U.S. Attorney Frank J. Magill. "Mr. Beale attempted to evade his responsibility and conspired to cheat the system. Tax evasion is a serious crime and our office will aggressively prosecute such cases."
Jon Tevlin • 612-673-1702
------ "I can't promise I'll try. But I'll try to try."