Smart man – Wesley Snipes – wasn’t so smart with his tax dodging that he avoided a lengthly prison sentence (which he is now appealing)… But sometimes even some folks fall into dumb luck. This may be the case for the actor – tax dodger – Wesley Snipes.
Go figure… Facing three years in prison he just might win his appeal since one of the star (no pun intended) witnesses – Kenneth Starr – financial adviser to Mr. Snipes back in the ’90’s. Kenneth I. Starr, who was arrested recently and charged with fraud and money laundering in federal court in New York, was Snipes’ financial advisor in the 1990s. Starr, a prosecution witness in Snipes’ 2008 tax-evasion trial, testified then that he told the movie star he needed to file tax returns, despite contrary advice the actor obtained from an anti-tax outfit.
Now, honestly, as a former CPA – Starr gave Snipes accurate and good advice. But…Wesley Snipes is hoping that the arrest of his former financial advisor could help reverse the actor’s tax-charge conviction on which he has been sentenced to three years in prison.
The testimony by Starr, described by the prosecutor in his closing statement as “a competent tax professional,” was a major reason the jury convicted Snipes on three misdemeanor charges, said Robert Barnes, Snipes’ lead trial lawyer. His client was acquitted of felony charges in the case. Barnes said he was confident the conviction would be overturned now that Starr had been arrested.
Frankly, this is all a bit surreal, in that I, too, was a “competent tax professional” who (UNFORTUNATELY) effected a Ponzi scheme (back in the ’80’s) before it was the popular sheik thing to do. But, when you do something wrong – and face conviction for the offense – it seems your credibility is destroyed and success of the past is surely in the past.
“Wes will pursue all legal remedies if the government doesn’t step up to the plate and drop these charges on its own,” said Barnes, who is with the Bernhoft Law Firm in Los Angeles.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Florida that prosecuted Snipes declined to comment on Starr’s arrest and said the government still intended to contest Snipes’ previously filed appeal. But some legal experts said Starr’s arrest could benefit Snipes, who has not yet begun serving his sentence.
“It’s a nice thing to have landed in the laps of the defense,” said Ellen S. Podgor, a law professor at Stetson University who blogged on Snipes’ trial. “If this was in fact the star witness, and if the guy lied, then that’s pretty crucial.”
During the trial the defense contended that Starr had lied on the stand.
If Wesley Snipes gets off it will be a blow to the government and bolster the ranks of those who somehow feel that not paying or filing tax returns is actually OK. Take it from one who spent time in prison for a tax crime – playing with the tax law is not a wise move. Should Wesley face three years in prison for a misdemeanor? Seems a bit of a stretch, but, for those who followed this case, Wesley did much more than not file returns…he tried to dodge the system entirely and was not nearly as dumb as he played himself to be.
But Starr’s failure might keep this star out of prison. I’m sure that Wesley is thanking his lucky Starrs that this fell into his lap!