OCALA — A federal judge Friday rejected actor Wesley Snipes' demand for a new trial and ordered him to surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to begin serving a 36-month prison sentence for tax-related crimes.
In a 17-page order, U.S. District Court Judge William Terrell Hodges said, "The defendant Snipes had a fair trial; he has had a full, fair and thorough review of his conviction and sentence by the Court of Appeals; and he has had a full, fair and thorough review of his present claims, during all of which he has remained at liberty. The time has come for the judgment to be enforced."
The star of Jungle Fever, White Men Can't Jump and U.S. Marshals was convicted in 2008 of three misdemeanor counts of willfully failing to file federal tax returns.
Prosecutors contend he obstructed the Internal Revenue Service and attempted to avoid paying millions of dollars in federal taxes.
The actor's defense team had hoped the judge would grant Snipes a new trial after receiving e-mails from two jurors who said other members of the panel had concluded the actor was guilty before the trial began.
While Snipes could challenge Hodges' latest ruling and ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case, he would likely await the ruling from a federal prison cell.
The judge's order requires Snipes to "surrender himself" upon receipt of notice from the U.S. Marshal Service or from the federal Bureau of Prisons. It is unclear in the order where and when he must turn himself in.
Best known as the vampire-killing hero in the trilogy Blade, Snipes was accused of conspiring with Eddie Ray Kahn of Lake County to avoid paying more than $15 million in taxes from 1999 to 2004.
The conspiracy charge accused Snipes of seeking a fraudulent refund of $7.3 million.
Kahn, who founded American Rights Litigators in Mount Dora, sold illegal tax-dodging schemes and convinced the actor that he had no obligation to pay federal income taxes. Kahn was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Hodges pointed out, "It is also worthy of note … that the veracity of the claim of juror misconduct in this case is undermined by the fact that (Snipes) was acquitted of the most serious charges; that the complaining juror waited 21/2 years before bringing the alleged misconduct to light; and the fact that the jurors' complaint was expressly motivated by the defendant's sentence — a consideration that, in itself, the jury was expressly instructed to disregard in arriving at its verdict."