Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wesley Snipes Will Go To Prison

The Wesley Snipes tax evasion case was certainly the most high profile criminal tax case brought by the government in years. In spite of victories that he had in the trial court (acquittal on all felony charges). Mr. Snipes today learned what his sentence would be on the remaining three misdemeanors (failure to file) on which he was convicted.

A misdemeanor is a crime for which someone can be incarcerated for up to one year (a felony can result in a prison sentence of over one year). Today we learned that Wesley Snipes would serve the maximum sentence for his failure to file tax returns. Three Misdemeanors = Three Years.

That Snipes received the maximum sentence available suggests that while his attorneys were able to cleverly obtain acquittals of the felonies from the jury, the judge didn't agree with the arguments that were made. The judge would likely have handed down a lesser sentence if he had thought that the crime was limited to the misdemeanors. However, Wesley Snipes had avoided/evaded a substantial amount of taxes through teaming up with a group of people that are also facing their own consequences. The judge was certainly aware of how much went unpaid and how it was done. To hand down the maximum sentence, we can assume that he found Mr. Snipes' conduct eggregious.

One must wonder if the judge felt handicapped in handing down his sentence because he could only give three years. For this reason, Mr. Snipes should be very grateful for the acquittals that his lawyers got for him. If they hadn't done so, he could have been sitting for a much longer sentence.

If the $5 million dollar payment that Wesley Snipes has paid constitutes the tax, penalties and interest due, this case leaves two last interesting questions:

1) Will Wesley Snipes be sent to a minimum security prison camp (as is common in criminal tax cases) or will he end up in a more "prison-like" prison?

2) What is going to happen to all of the other people that participated in the same scheme that Snipes did?

It is not likely that each participant in the schemes will face criminal prosecution, rather, these other people can consider themselves to have benefited from Wesley Snipes' celebrity. However, we can safely assume that the government now has a list of names of all those people that participated in the American Rights Litigators and Guiding Light of God Ministries promoted schemes. These people will have to use the established IRS procedures to resolve their debts. Fortunately for them their, consequence will likely be limited to writing large checks made payable to "The United States Treasury."

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