Snipes gets maximum sentence in tax case

April 24, 2008 at 6:59 PM
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OCALA, Fla., April 24 (UPI) -- Despite pleas from a cavalcade of Hollywood stars, Wesley Snipes received the maximum penalty for tax fraud in a Florida court Thursday, officials said.

Snipes was sentenced by a U.S. District judge in Ocala, Fla., to three years in prison and faces fines of up to $5 million for federal tax evasion, the U.S. Department of Justice reported.

"Snipes' long prison sentence should send a loud and crystal clear message to all tax defiers that if they engage in similar tax defier conduct, they face joining him ... as inmates in prison," said Nathan J. Hochman, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Tax Division.

The 45-year-old film star was convicted Feb. 1 of three misdemeanor counts of willfully failing to file a tax return.

Prior to the sentencing, defense attorneys gave Senior U.S. District Court Judge William Terrell Hodges 39-pages of letters from Snipes' friends, colleagues and employees speaking on his behalf, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported.

Actor Denzel Washington said Snipes was, "like a tree -- a mighty oak."

Actor Woody Harrelson also stepped up for Snipes along with television judges Joe Brown and Greg Mathis, the report said.

Snipes' defense lawyers argued their client was only found guilty of misdemeanors and jail sentences have not been given to many celebrities in tax trouble.

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