Wesley Snipes Appeals Prison Sentence In Georgia

Friday, Nov 20, 2009  |  Updated 4:01 PM CDT
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Wesley Snipes Appeals Prison Sentence In Georgia

New Line Cinema

Wesley Snipes, who turns 47 on July 31, is best known for his role as Blade in the Blade trilogy, as well as his legal woes after he was sentenced to three years in prison for failure to file federal income tax returns. His sentence is currently in appeals court while Snipes remains a free man.

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Wesley Snipes' attorneys asked a federal appeals court Friday to review an "unreasonable" three-year prison sentence for the film star, who was convicted a year ago on federal tax charges.

Attorneys for the star of the "Blade" trilogy and other films also argued the actor should have been granted a hearing to decide whether his trial should have been in New York instead of Florida.

Prosecutors countered that Snipes, 47, had plenty of time to appeal to move the case to New York in a timely manner before he was convicted of three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file his income tax returns. Besides, they contended, housing records showed he lived in Florida as well as New York.

The three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta issued no immediate decision.

Snipes was sentenced in April 2008 in what was considered a key victory for prosecutors who aggressively pursued the maximum penalty to deter others from trying to obstruct the IRS. They say he made at least $13.8 million for the years in question and owed $2.7 million in back taxes that he refused to pay.

Snipes apologized at the time, calling himself an idealistic artist who was "unschooled in the science of law and finance."

The actor, who is free on bail while he appeals the convictions, was not at the downtown Atlanta courthouse. But his attorneys argued in court filings that the sentence was too harsh and "focused too heavily on deterrence." And in court Friday, they said the trial judge's decision not to move the trial jeopardized Snipes' constitutional rights.

"The right to a correct venue is part and parcel to the right to a jury trial," said his attorney, Peter Goldberger. He said Snipes should have been entitled to a pretrial hearing to show where he lived, "and the evidence would show he lives in New York."

Prosecutors, though, argued that the law is clear when it comes to where trials are to take place, and that Snipes' attorneys were too late in asking for a change.

"Wesley Snipes received a fair trial and a fair sentence," said Patricia Barksdale, an assistant U.S. attorney. "His numerous appeals do not make that sentence erroneous."

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