Wesley Snipes: Tax Conviction and 3 Year Sentence Upheld
Actor Wesley Snipes lost his appeal of his 3 year sentence for tax crimes today. The 11th Circuit opinion is here. The factual part -- with Snipes arguments against filing returns for five years on more than $37 million of income, is interesting. (He was convicted for three of those years and the amount of taxes he owes is $17 million.)
Although Snipes earned more than thirty-seven million dollars in gross income from 1999 to 2004, he did not file individual federal income tax returns for any of those years.
Among the reasons he claimed he didn't have to pay taxes:
Snipes also claimed that as a “fiduciary of God, who is a ‘nontaxpayer,’” he was a “‘foreign diplomat’” who was not obliged to pay taxes.
Snipes was convicted of misdemeanors, not felonies. Under federal law, the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is 12 months. But because his guidelines were higher than that, the court could and did stack the counts, maxing him out at 36 months.
It seems the principal reason the court imposed the maximum sentence was general deterrence -- to discourage others from committing the crime. Making an example of someone always seems to me to be a poor reason for a sentence -- but particularly in this case, considering the small percentage of our population who earn more than $7 million a year that might be deterred.
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