Snipes Gets Maximum Sentence: 36 Months
Asked For 'Mercy,' Received Deterrence
OCALA, Fla. -- Wesley Snipes was sentenced to 36 months in prison Thursday, the maximum sentence allowed.
Snipes was convicted of three misdemeanor charges for not filing his taxes.
During the sentencing, Snipes did apologize.
"I asked this court to show me mercy and the opportunity to set things right," Snipes said. "This will never happen again. I am very sorry for my mistakes or my errors."
He added, "being in the spotlight attracts loving fans, and jackals."
However, the judge indicated that deterrent was an important factor in tax cases.
"There's nothing unusual about prosecuting a celebrity," Judge William Hodges said. "[Snipes] never mentioned the words tax or taxes in his apology."
Prosecutors, too, sought the maximum sentence to deter others from attempting to avoid tax payments.
"We think it sends a real message," U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill said. "Again you have to pay your taxes. If you dispute the taxes you owe, contact the IRS and go through the formal process. To continually just say, 'I don't owe taxes, you must show me why I owe taxes,' it seemed his position was ludicrous."
Snipes was not forced to surrender immediately. Instead the judge said he can surrender at a later date, somewhere nearer to his New Jersey home.
Snipes’ defense team spent the morning arguing that he should not have to go to prison.
Snipes had appeared confident when he arrived at the federal courthouse Thursday morning.
In the pre-sentencing report, the probation department said that Snipes’ conduct could be construed as trying to obstruct the investigation. The report said that could be grounds to increase Snipes’ jail time.
Snipes had many character witness letters written by friends, including Woody Harrelson and Denzel Washington.