Snipes imprisoned for three years

April 24, 2008

Hollywood actor Wesley Snipes has received a three-year prison sentence for tax offences.

A federal judge handed down the maximum term requested by prosecutors - a year for each of Snipes's convictions of wilfully failing to file a tax return.

Snipes's lawyers had called for leniency, arguing that the offences were misdemeanours and that the star was of good character.

But prosecutors said an example should be set because of Snipes's fame.

In February, Snipes was found guilty of deliberately failing to file tax returns for 1999, 2000 and 2001, but was cleared of more serious fraud and conspiracy charges.

United States District Judge William Terrell Hodges said the action star had shown a "history of contempt over a period of time" for US tax laws.

"In my mind these are serious crimes, albeit misdemeanours", he said.

Before sentencing, Snipes asked the court to show mercy, apologising for his behaviour by saying he was "an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance".

He also offered three cheques amounting to $5m (2.5m) as a gesture of good will.

Appeal plan

Snipes is not currently in custody and it is not yet clear when he will have to surrender to authorities.

In the meantime, his lawyers have said they will appeal against the sentence.

The star of films such as Blade 3 and Demolition Man had asked for probation instead of imprisonment.

Fellow actors Woody Harrelson and Denzel Washington sent letters as character witnesses, as did family, friends and employees.

The actor's first role was in Goldie Hawn's 1986 American football comedy Wildcats, and he has also appeared in hit films such as White Men Can't Jump, and Passenger 57.

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