The Snipes defense rested without offering any witnesses. His legal team didn’t feel that any argument or witnesses were needed, saying: “We could have put on a big show, but we don’t do that. We’re not going to waste the jury’s time.” The same team that had claimed that their portion of the trial could take up to a month actually took less than one hour.

Last week, IRS agent Steward Stich testified that Snipes earned almost $40 million ($37,897,053 to be exact) in the years 1999 through 2004. Snipes failed to file tax returns or pay any taxes, payroll taxes included, on that income. Snipes also tried to have almost $12 million in taxes paid in prior years 1996 and 1997 refunded to him.

Snipes has pleaded not guilty on all counts and could face up to 16 years in prison if convicted.

Will he be convicted? Here’s my prediction: he will. He will also appeal based on a number of factors, including the fact that he is facing an all-white jury in what he claims is “racist” Ocala, Florida.

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Kelly Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer and podcaster.

Comments

  1. Is it just me, or is this really dumb? When you don’t have a defense to present — it’s time to plea bargain.

  2. I do think it’s dumb.

    My personal take (and I don’t do crim law, just tax law) is that I think that they just wanted to hear what the prosecution had to say. They’re going to appeal – for the all white jury most likely but also because of the issue with counsel – and then be ready the second go round. Kind of Enron-y.

  3. I hate the fact that a very serious issue like the legitimacy of income tax is being made to sound stupid and crazy. People (like me) who don’t believe that income tax is legal, could have gotten some needed publicity by this trial, but instead its turned into a circus. The main stream media seems to be in the pockets of the Federal Reserve and Big Banks who are the main people who profit from Federal Income Tax. Main Media should show both sides of the argument, instead of labeling people as crazy and bizarre. Instead of giving opinions they should present facts.

  4. The IRS is way to powerful. Several of the revenue officers are nothing but a bunch of bullies with to much power. So much for the kinder gentler IRS. They are putting me into bank ruptcy over technical issues with their website. I’m voting for Huckabee just because he wants to abolish the IRS. That’s the best new I’ve heard yet. All of those revenue officers would have to find real jobs. Of course they’ll probably need therapy to get over their power loss. I hope the jury regardless of race could at least set a good example. I like the fact that you don’t put on a defense when the prosecution sucks. We are to presume innocence in this country but we know that doesn’t happen either.

  5. The problem, as many folks have pointed out, is that you can’t make a good argument on either side with a circus. And this is exactly what this trial is – a media circus. Snipes is probably getting more looks on Google than he has in eons (his last films have not consistently been winners) and he’s clearly eating it up.
    And he isn’t a tax protester in the purest sense – he has clearly stated to the media that he thought that not paying taxes was too good to be true.
    I know a number of people hail Tommy Cryer’s case as a win, but I think there’s a similar argument to be made in terms of bad facts not helping the case. Character should not outweigh the arguments – on either side.

  6. john r walden Reply

    dear sirs;

    it appears there was a outsider that entered int the game and baisicly threw a wrench into the game paln to send wesly to prison.
    i appears there was a 50 million in the works to pay off mr snipes tax bill. get the feds to back off and the irs to become mr snipes accountig firm and repsonsible to do thi quarterly and end of year state and federal taxes.
    i also appers oj simpson, britney spears, the goldman family, the brown family and the 2 border guards got the same deal.
    also the us federal court becomes their advocate and the us attorney is the defendant as well as the federal prosecuting attorney as well.
    could a fax sent to the us treasury on sunday and the us senate judicary coomittee early monday morning got the message accross.
    look like there was no roll of the dice. the dice were loaded and in snipess favor.

    who is the masked plaintiff prosee. where well the plaintiff prosee strike next.

    only the shadow knows for sure.

  7. john r walden Reply

    check out the word from us senator leahy from vermont from23 august, 2007. The plainitff pro see kicked the gov and irs so bad in 2004 and since then the out of court settlemtn has grown to 17 figures and may rise to 20 figures.
    the irs tried to delare the plaintiff prosee a afroamerican, born 1971, a drug dealer and even had a judgement against him in 2007 by the govenrment,e tc… caught on tape legally by
    a mortgage kending company.
    the plainitff prosee is white, born 1955, a disabled veteran, a graduate student in criminal justice, and the ssn does not match, nor does the middle inital.
    The irs is his acountig firm and he got into the irs face in march of 2007 when the feds tried to accuse him of embexxzzleing form escrow account 26-0046439. he ore thr irs a new hole
    and infromed them that they were in contempt of the federal judges explicit orders in the federal ut of court settlement for failure to undr penalty of prosecution to do the quarterly and end of year taxes. also failure to provise accountability as the plaintiff requested in motions before the us federal court in 2004.
    the account 26-0046439 and all the buisness were in his and his wife’s name. that he and the federal court made the irs and the us attorney
    that an oversight committee of one us marshall, one officer of the us court and the IRS were on that committee.
    IT APPEARS THE IRS COST THE OVERNMENT TRILLIONS IN ADDITONAL JUDGEMENT IN MARCH OF 2007.
    WHT WILL BE THE WORD THAT SNIPES WILL BE TOLD AS WAS TOLD TO THE PLAINITFF PRO SEE–NO HARM NO FOUL BY EITHER PARTY.

  8. john r walden Reply

    THE WAY TO WIN ON THE IRS AND ELIMINATE THE PERSONNEL ICOME TAX LEGALLY IS THAT
    230 MEBERS OF THE CONGRESS ARE DEFENDANTS AS WELL AN ARE THE 4 COMMITTESS THAT ALLOCATED FUNDS TO MUDER HIM AND HIS ENTIRE FAMIOLY IN 2002 AND ALSO KILLED A FELLOW MEMBER OF THEIR LLC IN 2000 UNDER THE ORDERS OF BUSH AND CLINTON.
    VERIFIED BY US SENATOR LEAHY.
    SNIPES ONLY FAILED TO LAY TAXES, THE PLAINITIFF PRO SEE TOOK THEM TO THE CLEANERS.

  9. Kelley, not sure what the point is to your post unless you are trying to get attention. But as an attorney you know that when you have the facts on your side – you argue the facts, when you don’t – you pound the table. Snipes Defense counsel just threw in the towel – no arguing or pounding – since they know that they have no chance in hell. I imagine that this will be appealed automatically and then the real circus will come in town when they play the race card. In only a matter of time Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson will bobbing for camera angles and microphones. It’s a shame that con artist like Snipes has the temerity to pay no taxes and have the balls to suggest he shouldn’t when the average worker does. I hope they throw him in jail for a very long time. There are so many other important issues that the media should be concerned with not this crook.

  10. The point of my post is that this is arguably the most prominent tax evasion case in a long time. If Snipes were truly arguing that he believed that it was not his responsibility to pay taxes, he could have presented a defense. I don’t think it’s so much that his defense threw in the towel as it is that I think they wanted to see what the government had to throw at them. There will be an appeal.

  11. I totally disagree with our system of Tax Evasion prosecution… fine, if Wesley Snipes owes the IRS taxes, let them settle it in Civil Court like most other civilized countries do, where the burden of proof is on the defendant, not the Government. Don’t send someone to prison over personal finances, destroying his ability to repay the very taxes in dispute. If he is found guilty in civil court, he will surely pay dearly with the IRS in penalties and interest, instead of removing a decent person from society; it is simply counter-productive and I can’t believe our Government has brain-washed so many people with tax charges that they are able to get criminal convictions not just for a high-profile, large $11M case but cases as low as $150,000 over 4 years…

    WAKE UP America, don’t convict for criminal charges, a tax evasion case, instead, force it to civil where everyone in normal society, excluding prosecution and Government disillusioned types, benefit from the result.

    The only argument the Government can use in these criminal tax evasion cases is one of deterrence… IT DOES NOT WORK and is extremely flawed. Maybe with this philosophy, in order to prevent people from speeding, which easily kills more people in this great country than tax evasion, we should create deterrence by spot checking the violators and punishing them with the death penalty…hmmm…great idea.

    Maybe the people of America will wake up, the people who are on juries in these types of cases, and stop allowing the Government to control them and send a message that some of their policies are ridiculous and realize the next person under the Federal IRS microscope may be them…

  12. Bert – I hear you and I agree with you on a number of the points you made. But let me ask you a question – what do you fear more a civil suit or a criminal suit?

  13. Sorry it has taken so long to get back to this post…interesting how it eventually played out in this trial. Financially, of course you fear the civil suit but your freedom is at stake in the criminal suit, which for most people is a more valuable resource. But that choice really does not matter in tax cases because it is not either/or, the civil will be coming regardless of the outcome of the criminal case. Criminalizing underpayment of taxes is a ridiculous policy and “general deterrance” simply does not work as the government devotes so many resources to a single case where they want to bury a single person, when they would be better served to spread those resources to pursue PAYMENT of taxes and have a much better opportunity to recover more lost revenue from more people who underpay taxes.

  14. This is interesting question – whether it’s appropriate to criminalize the underpayment of taxes. Of course, it’s important to note that it’s a willful avoidance that’s criminal, not a negligent act. That’s the piece that often goes missing from these cases celebrated by many tax protesters – the jury didn’t find that Snipes or Cryer must not pay taxes, they just didn’t find the degree of willfulness to evade that you must prove for a guilty verdict.
    All of that said, would love to hear whether the willful component affects your feelings on prosecution. While I agree with you on distribution of resources (that it makes more sense to pursue taxes that are due than to prosecute), if a taxpayer has a consistent pattern of avoiding taxes (like Snipes), how do you make it financially smart to just pursue the taxes due? If there’s no incentive or deterrent other than hang out and wait to get caught and then pay a penalty, what do you do? If a taxpayer chooses not to pay every year, that’s a substantial burden on the IRS to chase that person with a pretty small stick…

  15. Snipes is wrongfully convicted. Prosecution’s whole case is “he made alot of money”. SO WHAT. What statute requires a Form 1040? There was no showing at trial because there is none. What statute specifies Snipes is liable for the payment of tax? There was no showing at trial because there is none! The only statutes that make anyone liable for payment of the income tax are 26 USC Sec. 1461 and 1463. They do not apply to Defendant Snipes. All of these elements of the case, regarding a showig at trial of actual statutory requirements, were improperly allowed to be assumed into existence by the jury, without being entered into evidence during trial. The court should not sustain that sort of conviction by assumption without actual showing. There is a fundamental violation of due process that requires not “fact” be assumed, and that all failed requirements be shown to actually exist, in order to have been failed! One cannot fail to do something that is not actually required by law to be done! The charges he was convicted under are failure to file charges, but the failures alleged, were never establshed by statutory evidence to exist.

    Everyone in this country needs to read “The Simple Truth About Income Tax”, and but quick.

  16. Wesly’s lawyers should have used the 13th amendment in his defense. As a white man I would not be allowed by law to enslave and or profit from the labor of a black man or any other man for that matter. Why is the IRS or the federal govt exempt from the 13th amendant?

  17. when the judges are paid with tax dollars, it is very difficult to win in tax court.

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