The Hunting of the Snipes

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Wesley Snipes is going to jail.

Wesley Snipes was sentenced to three years in prison on tax charges Thursday, 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.

More on Snipes here: In 2006, Brian Doherty blogged on his 2006 surrender to feds.

NEXT: The Coming of Mike Gravel

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  1. That seems excessive..

    His lawyer was saying that during the 3 years in question, he owed only $400K in taxes.

    3 years for misdemeanors? That’s rough

  2. Always bet on black!

  3. Chicago Tom–I thought he owed millions in taxes.

  4. I think this paragraph is more important:

    “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.”

    I never did like the idea of ‘example’ or ‘message’ prosecutions.

  5. I nominate him as LP presidential candidate. He could run from prison a la Eugene Debs.

  6. I remember reading about this a while ago. It sounded pretty nuts. He basically asserted he owed no tax based on some bizarre legal theory. I remember him owing millions too.

    Still, it was a lot more fun seeing Paris Hilton go to jail.

  7. But I thought we had a voluntary system of taxation? 😉

  8. I see a new motion picture in the making. Who will play Snipes? Can the picture wait 3 yrs.? Nice title Weigel although “The Snipe Hunt” maybe be more succinct. I realize it apocapates his last name, but is more evocative of that practical joke of sending a peer out on a hunt for something that doesn’t exist–except that it does.

  9. So they catch four cops on video kicking the shit out of some guy, and they all walk.

    OJ kills two people in cold blood, and he walks.

    But Snipes declines to pay his taxes and he loses three years of his life.

    It’s good to see the state’s priorities are in place.

  10. If only Lewis Carrol was around to write a poem about this hunt.

  11. Hugh,

    I agree. The cops get to continue making salary and pay taxes on it. OJ gets to continue making money on collectibles, autographs and royalties on Nordberg from the Naked Gun and pay taxes (but maybe not because he has to show he makes no money so as not to pay a dime to Nicole’s and Ronald’s heirs) and a bankable star capable of many more roles goes behind bars. Shitty morons at the IRS. Garnish his wages.

    jeez!

  12. Take the money with interest and give him community service. That would be justice. This is a sick joke. I’ve seen people who’ve murdered get less time.

  13. I think Guru Cliff turned him in when he took back his Total Gym.

  14. Is there anyone who _doesn’t_ exhibit ‘a “history of contempt over a period of time” for U.S. tax laws’?

  15. case was important to send a message to would-be tax protesters not to test the government.”

    This seems to the recurring theme of a lot of government actions as of late: don’t test us.

  16. “Is there anyone who _doesn’t_ exhibit ‘a “history of contempt over a period of time” for U.S. tax laws’?”

    No, including IRS agents.

  17. Definitely excessive, but he will most likely have early parole. The “making an example” concept violate a fundamental principle of common law, that all are equal before the law.

  18. The “making an example” concept violate a fundamental principle of common law, that all are equal before the law.

    Not being snarky when I ask this, just ignorant of legal matters, baby:
    Has that defense worked before or often?
    It seems like courts often make examples of defendants.

  19. What do you expect a tax-funded judge to do? Snipes was threatening his livelihood.

  20. U.S. Attorney Robert O’Neill said. “Again you have to pay your taxes. If you dispute the taxes you owe, contact the IRS and go through the formal process. To continually just say, ‘I don’t owe taxes, you must show me why I owe taxes,’ it seemed his position was ludicrous.”

    It seemed his position was ludicrous? The DA said that? Does seeming ludicrous hold up in court? I guess so.

  21. Talldave: It sounded pretty nuts.

    The DA agrees with you.

  22. Tax protesters never seriously consider the fact that it is immaterial what they think the law says. It doesn’t matter whether or not Ohio is really a state. It doesn’t matter that US money is gold and silver coin. It is all just a hit of opium on a warm summer night. The government knows what side the bread is buttered on and the government will not permit you to evade taxes. You will lose, every time.

    And even if you win, as the Fed Ex pilot did, she still owes the back taxes and the penalties and the interest, she’s just not going to jail because she was able to prove that she honestly believed she did not have to pay taxes. That goes to intent. But the pain of penalties and interest approaching 50% of the original tax will make her think twice next time.

  23. Sorry, not the “DA.” It is the US Attorney. I just got done watching Law & Order.

  24. Why don’t we get interest when the government refunds our money?

    I know this is the standard libertarian snarky question, but I’m genuinely curious if the government has ever given an official reason.

  25. Another logical fallacy among taxpayers and tax protesters alike is the idea that if you, for example, take a deduction that isn’t allowed AND the IRS doesn’t say anything, that the deduction is legal.

    So the tax protester doesn’t file his return or files and claims he made no legal US money. Nothing happens. He does it again. Nothing happens. Wow! Irwin Schiff is right!

    The truth is more like getting away with speeding on the freeway. You just didn’t get caught. Yet, time and time again I hear the argument….we’ve been deducting that for years, of course you can do it.

  26. Why don’t we get interest when the government refunds our money?

    You do. But not if the refund comes before April 15th. They also don’t charge you interest on taxes due if the tax is paid before April 15. But you may pay underpayment of estimated tax penalties if you owe too much tax.

    The IRS pays one percentage point less than they charge.

  27. I still think it would have been great if the Ron Paul campaign had taken the $500 Don Black donation and given it to the Wesley Snipes defense fund.

  28. 1. Given how dangerous our prisons have become, I think it is cruel punishment to send ANYONE to jail FOR EVEN ONE DAY just because of non-payment of taxes. This is basically a debtor’s prison situation, which I thought we had eliminated long ago (except, of course, when the government wants to “send a message” about the need to pay taxes). Tommy Chong survived the jail time he got for his bong-selling conviction, so perhaps Wesley will survive his jail time for tax evasion, unless he made enemies who are now in the same prison or have connections there.

    2. How many people have to go to jail or otherwise have their lives turned upside down before we get serious about simplifying the tax code, and downsizing government so that it can operate on a fraction of the piles of cash it burns at the current federal run rate?

    3. Anyone who doesn’t have a deep and abiding hatred for our tax system (not just mere contempt) after more than a few years of experiencing it simply isn’t paying attention.

  29. It’s BS to go to jail for tax evasion, but didn’t Snipes go on the lam and “do a film” in Africa? Regardless of whether he was really “on the lam”, the perception remains. Not a smart move.

  30. Hey so in the IRS documents it says, “paying taxes is voluntary” I have seen it.

    Can’t his high dollar lawyers push that one at all? Are his lawyers worthless?

  31. Another question.

    It seems to me that us 3% voting is not getting the trick done. We are not getting rid of the income tax by voting. We are not getting rid of the robbery and violation of the constitution that takes place every year.

    So I am thinking that there has to be some other way to fight for our basic human rights.

    Something like the civil rights movement of the past.

    Any ideas?

  32. Kwais,

    Tax the kool-aid everyone must be drinking 1,000 %! But…I must admit, everyone would probably still pony up. PFS, isn’t it?

  33. James,

    Given how dangerous prisons have become? You do realize that Snipes will own that prison within two days of incarceration?

    No, wait. That was a Van Damme movie wasn’t it?

  34. No, Snipes will escape on his way to prison and prove he was framed.

  35. Kolohe,

    I bow before your superior Snipes knowledge.

    *grovels at Kolohe’s feet*

  36. A letter from Woody Harrelson? That just couldn’t have helped his case.

  37. kwais-

    Hey so in the IRS documents it says, “paying taxes is voluntary” I have seen it.

    I would have loved to hear Snipes’ attorney say, “I call Senate Majority leader Harry Reid to the stand.”

  38. Most people at work bitch, bitch and take no action leaving the brave one to step forward to have his head chopped off. This is how it works.

    Harry Reid is in essence saying: “having your head chopped off is voluntary, as well.” Fuckin’ Mormon douchebag that he is.

  39. Naga, it’s not my knowledge, it’s Sergey Brin’s and Col Needham’s knowledge, plus that of some anonymous hobbists’, that made that post possible.

  40. “A letter from Woody Harrelson? That just couldn’t have helped his case.”

    Mike, that’s exactly what I thought…I imagine that Woody’s performance as a drugged out loser in A Scanner Darkly, while great, was not much of a “stretch” if ya know what I mean…

  41. I have never read more ridiculous crap in my life.

    This arrogant bastard makes MILLIONS of dollars and he uses some half baked scheme to try to get out of paying taxes. And 90% of you jerks defend him? Libs are idiots. You despise paying taxes, you despise cops, you dispise othe government. Why don’t you all move to Cuba?

    The Libs will NEVER be a force in politics because you are all moonbats.

  42. TAXATION IS THEFT

    😉

  43. They argued he should get only probation because his three convictions were all misdemeanors and the actor had no previous criminal record.

    JohnD, thanks for your input–it was as pointless as I could have hoped for.

    I totally support the Snipes-dude in this, but didn’t he get nicked doing like 130 mph on his motorcycle and carrying a pistol without a permit quite a few years ago (which I also support him in)? Because that would presumably give him a criminal record, unless his lawyers were very good, which is possible.

  44. I have never read more ridiculous crap in my life.

    I refer you to this post here. Most ridiculous thing you’ll ever read.

  45. Douglas Gray | April 24, 2008, 11:08pm | #

    Definitely excessive, but he will most likely have early parole. The “making an example” concept violate a fundamental principle of common law, that all are equal before the law.

    Last I heard, there is no parole in the Federal Penn system. Something about “Truth in Sentencing”.

  46. I just think this would be a great movie opportunity. I mean, hes a martial arts action star for the most part, put into prison? Sounds like all the plot you need for a good fight flick. Though I’m not sure how bad ass the line will dialog will be when an inmate says “What you in for?” and he replies darkly “Taxes man…taxes”

  47. And even if you win, as the Fed Ex pilot did, she still owes the back taxes and the penalties and the interest, she’s just not going to jail because she was able to prove that she honestly believed she did not have to pay taxes. That goes to intent

    Not always. The movie “Freedom to Fascism” illustrates a trial in which the jury was shown the law and acquited not because of intent, but because they saw the man did not have to pay.

    Have you ever seen the defense that good anti IRS attorneys like Larry Becraft can muster? It is much more than a defense regarding intent. They manage to put the IRS on trial and expose how they operate and do not follow their own procedures. Then the jury can see that the procedures are in place to collect the real income tax, and they do not follow them because they are NOT collecting the real income tax authorized by 16Amendment.

  48. AS for Snipes, he threw his mentor under the bus. Eddie Kahn is also in prison. Snipes did not put up a principled defense, he said he was “duped”. I believe he knew full well what the possible consequences of his actions were. At that time he vowed he was in the fight for principle. When they actually came after him, he folded.

    Not that he should be in jail for it, no one should.

  49. JohnD,

    1) libertarians are usually pretty supportive of someone who’s done well for himself through voluntary exchange. You seem to be some sort of envy-motivated class warrior.

    2) libertarians generally support the freedom to be a jerk in public. It’s not clear that Snipes is anything approaching arrogant, but even if he is, we don’t think it justifies a sentence usually reserved for armed robbery.

    3) If you are going to troll around on a libertarian board, please do us the courtesy of learning to spell libertarian, and perhaps learning a little something about the big L/little l distinction.

    4) Cuba, WTF?

  50. The only extraterrestrial bats around here are from uranus. budum.

  51. Libs are idiots. You despise paying taxes, you despise cops, you dispise othe government. Why don’t you all move to Cuba?

    Because this is the first we’ve heard that Cuba doesn’t have taxes, cops and government. Thanks for the heads up. Guess things have really changed now that Fidel has stepped down. Fuck that Free State project–Havana-a-go-go!

  52. JohnD brings up roads in 3… 2… 1…

  53. “The “making an example” concept violate a fundamental principle of common law, that all are equal before the law.”

    There are many organizations that don’t adhere to their professed “principles”. Also it seems that the government has been more explicit of late in many of their actions. I really think this is a reaction to the increased communication of information brought about by the internet. These trends are historical, the British reacted similarly to the advent of printing press if I remember correctly and tax disputes were many back then.

  54. Pay your taxes like everyone else, you parasite, and stop whining and hiding behind bullshit.

  55. Too bad Snipes isn’t “dead.” (See Friday’s Brickbat.)

    The IRS can’t get anything right.

  56. JohnD: Did Snipes use $15 million in Federal services they last 5 years? How the Fuck do people like you honestly support that kind of outright theft?

  57. Pay your taxes like everyone else, you parasite, and stop whining and hiding behind bullshit.

    Because everyone else pays all of their taxes and doesn’t ever under report income or over report deductions. Nobody spends any time at all trying to minimize the amount of tax they pay. I’m glad we got that sorted out. It must really be a voluntary system after all!

  58. joe’s right! We’ve got an Iraq war to support! Snipes’ money could have paid for at least another 1000 young men and women to have their feet and hands blown off!

    Or are they the parasites, too?

  59. “Pay your taxes like everyone else, you parasite, and stop whining and hiding behind bullshit.”

    Yes parasites are involved with tax collection, but methinks you are affixing the label to the wrong people.

  60. Yeah, Welsey Snipes is a parasite because he wants to hang on to the fruits of his labor instead of giving it to people who haven’t earned it. 😉

    War is peace, right?

  61. kwais: “It seems to me that us 3% voting is not getting the trick done. We are not getting rid of the income tax by voting. We are not getting rid of the robbery and violation of the constitution that takes place every year.

    So I am thinking that there has to be some other way to fight for our basic human rights.

    Something like the civil rights movement of the past.

    Any ideas?”

    I’ve been saying it as out loud as possible for at least twenty years, and I’ve been doing it for thirty-one years, now.

    Stop it. Stop paying income taxes on moral grounds: “This is my money: I’m the one who earned it, and you cannot have it because it’s mine.”

    Here’s a note on these fools who attempt arguments on the law, without the least moral reference: they’re acting like focus groups for legislators. (In this aspect, I don’t know who is more foolish.) I’d like to see the look on their faces if the assholes in congress tweaked the law to these idiots’ satisfaction. “Okay, the law is squared-away now. Pay up.”

    Do you want to figure out how to knock this thing over? Look to Martin Luther King. Flood the courts, and embrace the prisons. Passive civil disobedience is going to be the last shot we ever have at making the moral appeal to what’s left of a conscience in this country.

    JohnD: “Why don’t you all move to Cuba?”

    Who do you think you are? You can go fuck yourself with my earnest compliments.

  62. “failing to pay taxes on more than $58 million of income for the years 1999 through 2004.”

    He doesn’t deserve 3 years for this.

    Seems a fine and community service would be a more appropriate way to make an example of him…seeing as how community service could include high profile public service announcements showing him doing the equivalent amount of work for the community his taxes would have covered. I am thinking start with garbage collection and sewer cleaning…move up to road work and public health over time.

    If you are gonna protest taxes on principle, work out a scheme to pay fees for all government services you use…no cheating.

  63. “If you are gonna protest taxes on principle, work out a scheme to pay fees for all government services you use…no cheating.”

    That’s the Mafia Rationale. “We have these ‘services’, and you’re going to buy them.”

    Get your government out of my markets.

  64. I just hate Woody Harrelson out of spite for what he did to a good friend of mine. She was stuck on the Golden Gate Bridge for three hours with a cranky kid and a bladder full of coffee while he was climbing the towers to unfurl some protest banner.

  65. Some food for thought.

    Why did Snipes get three years?

    Because he was given MANY chances over several years to come clean and pay what he owed. Instead, he acted like a jerk and openly advertised his position to other people. Lesson learned: never shake your ass at the man, as the man has no sense of humor and you are always the one to take it in the rear in the end.

    Why did the IRS go after Snipes in the first place?

    If everyone actually paid what they owed in taxes the US budget would not be running a deficit. Right now somewhere between $400 and $600 billion a year is not collected due to people cheating the system. Going after big name cheats like Snipes sends a clear message to everyone else to pay up.

  66. Pay your taxes like everyone else, you parasite, and stop whining and hiding behind bullshit.

    parasite?

    snipes isn’t a senator or a congressman that i know of.

  67. Going after big name cheats like Snipes sends a clear message to everyone else to pay up.

    The same principle applies when a loan shark has your arm broken for non-payment.

    Here’s a quick idea to lower the deficit… STOP SPENDING SO MUCH FUCKING MONEY!

  68. A letter from Woody Harrelson? That just couldn’t have helped his case.

    thread winner

    Have you ever seen the defense that good anti IRS attorneys like Larry Becraft can muster? It is much more than a defense regarding intent…

    No, I haven’t. I would be interested to see a case where the IRS lost because the taxpayer wasn’t obligated to pay taxes.

  69. Pay your taxes like everyone else, you parasite, and stop whining and hiding behind bullshit.

    Big surprise coming from Joe and all……

  70. Right now somewhere between $400 and $600 billion a year is not collected due to people cheating the system hanging onto the money they worked hard to earn.

    Fixed that for you.

    BTW, do you have a source cite for the 400-600 billion dollars a year in special tax savings?

    Secondarily, government will spend every dime of revenue it receives and another 15% on top. This is demonstrably true and occurs without regard to overall revenue. If you think I’m wrong, I direct you to the last 50 years of budget stats.

  71. Billy Beck

    Good man. I think refusing to pay income taxes is the mark of a true patriot.

  72. Anon, that was a great link.

  73. Pay your taxes like everyone else, you cuz I’m a parasite, and stop whining and hiding behind bullshit.

    fixed

  74. I don’t know about the Woody harrelson letter, but what puzzled me was the letter from judge Joe Brown that referred to Wesley as “Dr. Snipes” and called him the “good doctor.”

    I am on Wesley’s side. I support him in his tax evasion and “indian giving” of the Total gym, but when did he become a “doctor”?

    Having letters from 2 TV judges who apparently don’t even know “the good doctor”, a letter from Denzel that had as much substance as a Bob Barr LP policy position, and some rambling Woody Harrelson letter about Farrakhan- yeah all that couldn’t have helped.

  75. Not filing taxes is either a sign of a patriot or the ability to live on less than ~ $8,500 in reported income ( or in my case around $24,000).

  76. joe calling tax resisters parasites is pretty rich. He is, after all, the spiritual heir of those Jefferson complained about, thusly:

    He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

    Kevin

  77. As much I think Snipes’ behavior was criminally idiotic, this is a good example of the fact taxes are essentially the state saying “You will forfeit 1/3 of your income to us or we will commit violence against you.”

  78. TallDave,
    I think the income tax is essentially the state saying that they own YOU and all you earn.

    The state gets to decide if it is 1/3, 1/2 or whatever percentage of what you earn.

    You have to tell them how much you earn, and ask to keep what they decide you can keep.

    Everytime you pay taxes, you are paying a robber to continue to commit crime.

  79. OK, seriously, if you’re Wesley Snipes you should have hired an accountant. And any reputable accountant would tell you that Snipe’s reasoning for not paying taxes would NEVER stand up in court. It’s on the IRS website for Chris’sakes, under the frivoulous tax filings section. Here’s a whole document on it:

    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-utl/friv_tax.pdf

    The statement that filing taxes is voluntary has been interpreted as what you report on your return is voluntary. I can write whatever the hell I want on a tax return, that doesn’t mean it’s correct.

    Point is, if you’re grossing MILLIONS of dollars every year you should know better. Hell, people who make 60K a year are worried about audits. Is 3 years excessive? It’s arguable. Is not filing your tax returns when you’re a huge movie star straight up loco? Obviously. Grocery store bagging clerks know to file their taxes.

    This was idiotic on Snipes’ part and unethical on his advisors’ part. I’d give him a year, and I’d try has financial advisors for defrauding him.

  80. Billy Beck:

    I said: “”If you are gonna protest taxes on principle, work out a scheme to pay fees for all government services you use…no cheating.”

    Your replied: That’s the Mafia Rationale. “We have these ‘services’, and you’re going to buy them.”

    Clearly you didn’t read what I said.
    I said “pay for all the government services you use” not “pay for everything the government thinks you should pay for”

    Why did I word it that way?
    Cuz otherwise I would be saying “pay your taxes” as a principled protest against paying your taxes.

    See the difference?

    You use some government services.
    Those cost money.

    You don’t use others.
    They also cost money.

    Subtract the cost of those you don’t use from your taxes, and you are making a principled tax protest.

    Refuse to pay for the services you do use, and you are just a freeloader looking for a way to get out of paying your fair share.

  81. “You use some government services.”

    Like education, for instance? DEA?

    You really wanna have this fight?

  82. Tax protestors are modern Kabbalists. They think if they can find the right legal words and put them in the right legal order, then magic happens and they don’t have to pay taxes. Talk to one of these guys sometimes. They literally believe that if they can just get the legal formula right then the government will be bound to do their bidding.

  83. I disagree Brandybuck,

    I say again, people who refuse to pay taxes are true patriots. Like the people of the civil rights movement.

    That some of them try to win in court, more power to them.

  84. Billy Beck,

    You really wanna have this fight?

    You’ve got know idea what you’re talking about dude.

    DEA?
    You use the DEA?
    How?

    I suspect you might have been educated given your ability to type and read (however poorly)…or was that a service you didn’t avail yourself of?

  85. Billy Beck’s world:

    Walking down a publicly owned/maintained sidewalk to get to his car, parked on a publicly owned/maintained street he mutters to himself about those damned government peoples who are stealing from him.

    Mutter mutter, they don’t do anything for me…just steal my shit…mutter mutter…DEA, Mafia, Dept. Of Education…infrastructure sminfastructure…muttermutter…

  86. “Walking down a publicly owned/maintained sidewalk to get to his car, parked on a publicly owned/maintained street he mutters to himself about those damned government peoples who are stealing from him.”

    Right on, I agree. 60% of everyone’s wealth must be taken to patch and sweep the street, since there aren’t any parking meters, fuel taxes, or vehicle registration fees to fund those activities.

    The fire station and town commons, too. It really does take 60% of everyone’s wealth to support these essentials.

  87. D,

    You’re falling into the same trap…

    The idea is that a principled tax protester would only pay for those services they use.

    The 60% figure includes many things they don’t.

    If taxes are theft, fee based financing of government is the principled solution.

  88. Wah wah wah, I don’t like taxes, and since I”m rich, I figure I can hire enough lawyers to…

    STFU, parasite.

  89. Neu Mejican,

    Fee based financing is indeed the solution. I will pay if I wan’t to partake, I won’t if I don’t.

    Fair enough. Now, how much I earn, is my business, and my business alone. And the fucking government can have none of it.

  90. Kwais,

    Of course fee-based financing has some non-trivial accounting challenges, particularly for services like police and fire and what not…hard to say when exactly the service is being used, so some flat rate for residence of a covered area seems appropriate…which starts to look a lot like a tax.

  91. Neu Mejican,

    It may start to look like a tax. But not an income tax. There is not fee that I need to pay to make an income, because that starts to look like slavery.

    Also, it would be more of a flat tax not an “from each according to his worth” type tax.

    Also, I think some kind of a user fee, plus a voluntary payment, like an insurance or something.

    A little anecdotal something here; I recently went to the police to report a crime. It seemed like a pretty simple crime to solve to me, but I never really felt like a customer, I never really felt like they were there to help me.

    I would like to pay for a police that did what they are supposed to do.

    Whoever feels like I shouldn’t be allowed to smoke pot, whoever feels like I should wear a seatbelt when I drive, might feel like they are the customers of the police. But I don’t get that feeling.

  92. Also Neu Mejican,

    Isn’t there something fundamentally dishonest about asserting a right to someone else’s money and then justifying it by saying that you provide services?

    Whether the person whose money is being taken wants those services or not.

    Is the IRS claiming that Snipes used millions in taxpayer services?

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