Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Snipes gets 3 years in prison in tax case

OCALA — Actor Wesley Snipes received a maximum three-year federal prison sentence Thursday after being convicted on three misdemeanor charges of failing to file his tax returns.

The Blade trilogy star sat motionless in court as he listened to the judge, while his wife, Nakyung "Nikki" Park, whimpered loudly then began to cry.

Defense attorneys objected to Senior U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges' ruling and plan to appeal the sentence, which included a year of probation after the prison term.

The judge waived a fine against Snipes, although prosecutors had requested one. Snipes' attorneys said he must still pay millions of dollars in back taxes, interest and penalties.

Snipes, 45, has already started clearing his debt. He gave $5-million in checks to an Internal Revenue Service agent Thursday, who characterized the transaction as a "down payment" and only a "fraction" of what Snipes may owe. The government estimates his total debt could exceed $20-million.

Snipes remains free until the Bureau of Prisons designates a facility where he will serve his time. He has asked that it be near his New Jersey home.

The actor and his defense team left the federal courthouse in Ocala without speaking to fans or answering reporters' questions, which had become their custom during trial.

Inside the courtroom, Snipes spoke on his own behalf, asking for leniency.

"Let me begin by saying I am very sorry for my mistakes and errors," Snipes said. He called himself an idealist, a passionate truth seeker and someone who is sometimes naive.

"Even though I accept the jury's verdict, I never imagined my life would be imitating roles I played on the screen," he said.

A prosecutor pointed out that not once did Snipes acknowledge he had committed a crime or say the word "taxes."

"Which is a little troublesome," the federal judge noted.

Testifying to Snipes' good character, syndicated TV star Judge Joe Brown asked that the actor serve no prison time.

Brown said he met Snipes eight years ago. He described him as sometimes too trusting and "gullible." As a mentor to Snipes, Brown said, he has warned him that his celebrity makes his vulnerable to opportunists.

Brown also sent a detailed letter to the federal judge describing how Snipes had given back to inner-city youth and served as a role model.

Also sentenced Thursday were two co-defendants who stood trial with Snipes.

Eddie Ray Kahn, a Lake County resident whom Snipes hired as a tax consultant, received a maximum 10-year prison sentence for two felony convictions of conspiracy and filing a false claim with the Internal Revenue Service.

And Douglas P. Rosile, an unlicensed accountant from Venice, received a 4 1/2-year prison sentence for convictions on the same charges as Kahn.

Rosile prepared an amended tax return for Snipes that prosecutors used as evidence.

When the jury returned its verdict Feb. 1, it acquitted Snipes on the felony charges. It also found him not guilty on three other counts of failure to file his tax returns.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa revealed an indictment against Snipes in October 2006. Prosecutors accused him of conspiring with Kahn and Rosile to defraud the IRS of about $11.4-million in refunds Snipes sought on taxes he paid in 1996 and 1997.

The indictment also charged Snipes with failing to file tax returns from 1999 to 2004, while he earned nearly $38-million, the IRS said. Prosecutors said Thursday that Snipes has yet to pay taxes for 2005 and 2006. He recently asked for an extension in filing his 2007 tax returns too, prosecutors said.

Kahn, sentenced to three years in prison in the mid-1980s for failure to file his taxes, founded a consulting firm named American Rights Litigators. He convinced his clients, including Snipes, that the IRS had no legal authority to tax Americans on income they earned in the United States. Tax protesters base that argument on a section of the IRS code. Courts have rejected the theory.

Nathan Hochman, assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice's Tax Division, told the judge that the sentences he ordered would have a wide-reaching affect. The Justice Department announced this month the formation of the National Tax Defier Initiative. It's a more concentrated move to prosecute people who refuse to file their taxes, he said.

Snipes and his co-defendants became the first people to be sentenced since the initiative was announced.

Times staff writer Meg Laughlin contributed to this report. Kevin Graham can be reached at or (813) 226-3433.

>>fast facts

What's next?

Actor Wesley Snipes was not taken into custody Thursday. He most likely will serve his time at a federal prison near his home in New Jersey. Snipes and the Internal Revenue Service will work in future civil proceedings to determine his full tax liability, plus interest and penalties.

Snipes gets 3 years in prison in tax case 04/24/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 1, 2008 1:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash


    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle


    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators


    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.