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Wesley Snipes was facing 16 years in prison and $40 million in fines when the IRS unfairly prosecuted him for tax evasion and tax fraud in what the New York Times called, “the most significant tax trial in two decades.” Hired only three weeks before Snipes’ tax-evasion trial began, Wesley Snipes’ attorney Robert Barnes engineered a “stunning” legal defense leading to Wesley Snipes’ full acquittal on all tax evasion and tax fraud charges.
BarnesLawLLP.com provides full documentation of the Wesley Snipes tax case including court docket schedule, jury instructions and news coverage links as well as original insights. The closing argument of Robert Barnes, Wesley Snipes lawyer, is summarized below in “Wesley Snipes is an Innocent Man.”
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Wesley Snipes thanks his attorney, Robert Barnes, following his acquittal. Need help? Call (213) 330-3341
Wesley Snipes is an innocent man. A jury of 12 men and women said so.
– They said so unanimously when the government charged Wesley Snipes with criminal tax conspiracy, acquitting him of all conspiracy charges.
– They said so unanimously when the government charged Wesley Snipes with criminal fraud, acquitting him of all fraud charges.
– Nine of the 12 agreed Wesley Snipes was innocent of any misdemeanor failure to file charge.
– Three jurors, who later admitted lying to get on the jury, led to three misdemeanor convictions.
You know the characters he’s played on film of innocent men wrongly accused. You know the unfortunate history of governments imprisoning the innocent for purely political gain. You know the uglier side of southern justice in dealing with men of African-American ancestry. And you know how much the IRS can falsely accuse anyone, anytime, to serve their own avaricious interests. ￼ Now hear a bit of the story of Wesley Snipes, a man wrongly accused by a government he paid millions and millions of dollars in taxes to for “tax evasion.”
New York City, 1998. Wesley Snipes begins to suspect his financial advisor, who has complete control of his entire life financially. That advisor is Ken Starr. Snipes brings a complaint to the New York Manhattan District Attorney’s office. But they do nothing. They buy Ken Starr’s story, ignoring Snipes.
Wesley Snipes knew a fraud when he experienced one, and Snipes’ unheeded warning by the government let Starr go on to rob tens of millions of dollars from elderly wealthy matrons, foundations and a wide range of celebrities to support Starr’s new stripper wife, whom he married after leaving his former wife after she became ill.
That’s the government — siding with a fraudster, con artist and mini-Madoff like Ken Starr — over a conscientious citizen who never brought criminal harm to another person his entire life.
Kenneth Starr had been defrauding his clients for decades, including Al Pacino, Natalie Portman, Sylvester Stallone, Uma Thurman and Joan Stanton. Ten years later, the government would call and vouch for Ken Starr at a jury trial, calling him a “competent tax professional” who was truly “trustworthy” while the government accused Wesley Snipes of criminal tax fraud. Two years after the trial, the truth came out — Kenneth Starr had been defrauding his clients for decades, including Al Pacino, Natalie Portman, Sylvester Stallone, Uma Thurman and Joan Stanton, according to an investigation that netted corruption indictments against a leading New York City political figure, Andrew Stein. The government that previously vouched for Starr in Snipes’ trial refused to take any corrective action concerning Snipes after discovering Wesley Snipes had always been telling the truth about Starr.
1999-2006. Wesley Snipes, an actor not an accountant, sought out independent counsel concerning his finances, someone not embedded within the corrupt world Starr inhabited and exemplified. The independent counsel raised questions about Snipes’ tax status — questions Snipes goes directly to the IRS to get resolved. Snipes requests and invites an audit by the IRS. Snipes seeks meaningful answers to straightforward questions.
The IRS’ answer?
An indictment charging him with “tax evasion” – specifically tax fraud, tax felonies, tax evasion through conspiracy to defraud charges, false claims, fraudulent claims, and multiple misdemeanors alleging a failure to file a tax return, even though Snipes had repeatedly asked which form he should file and how. Unbeknownst to Snipes, the IRS began secretly shredding his documents, correspondence to the IRS and questions in something the IRS witnesses at trial admitted was part of “classified trash” program concerning Snipes’ sincere inquiries to the government he had paid millions and millions of dollars to in taxes over many years.
In Wesley Snipes’ tax fraud case the entire jury was white.
Ocala, Florida. 2008. Where was Wesley Snipes tried? In a town he’d never lived in. In a town he’d never visited. So why pick this town? The government could have brought the case in New York where Wesley Snipes grew up; in Orlando where he once resided; in Los Angeles where he plied his trade; in Washington D.C., where they alleged he filed documents and sought refunds. Indeed, the other alleged co-defendants connected to the matter would mostly be indicted and tried in Washington, D.C.
So why Ocala, Florida?
To answer that question you only needed to pass by the local courthouse, or to see the namesake moniker for the local high school or take a tour of the famed area Ocala National Forest. Ocala did stand out in one significant respect – Ocala experienced the highest per-capita incidences of racial hatred and racial hate groups of any town in America. The Dixie flag still waved near the courthouse. The school renamed itself for the founder of the Ku Klux Klan during the Civil Rights era in the 1950s. And the local national forest was the favored staging ground for white nationalist hate groups across the country, with invitations for events like “White Nationalist Fathers Day.” The Ku Klux Klan located its national mailing center in Ocala, while the infamous “Hog Valley” boasted a history of lynchings.
What happened when Wesley Snipes raised some questions about these issues?
Playing off his celebrated role in the movie “White Men Can’t Jump,” the local news media inflamed the community by improperly claiming Wesley Snipes stated “Wesley Snipes Can’t Judge.” (It was an ironic twist off another famous misquote of Wesley Snipes where urban legend wrongly claimed Wesley Snipes said adverse things about African-American women, when Wesley Snipes has a long, established history of strong community ties and broad diverse respect for people of various backgrounds.)
When you can’t win fair or clean, you cheat; and that’s what the government did throughout to try to wrongfully convict Wesley Snipes. How did the local community respond? Well, several people reached out to Wesley Snipes on public forums and invited him to “come to Hog Valley and see our tall trees.” That’s right. They invited him to a public lynching. Welcome to Ocala and what goes for “discretionary” venue choices by the United States Department of Justice.
What happened on jury day?
Unexplained to this day, unidentified court personnel sent all the non-white jurors home before the jury was even to be selected. As the Orlando newspaper would later joke in referencing the snow-covered Green Bay Packers football field during a playoff game that January, it was “as white as the jury for Wesley Snipes.” An all-white jury in a community tinged with racial hatred. Yet, despite those odds, nine honest and honorable jurors made it clear – Wesley Snipes was guilty of no crime. But three jurors lied to get on the jury, and they would yet play a role.
There was another reason for the choice of Ocala. Federal courts are supposed to have random assignments to a wide range of local judges. Not Ocala. File an indictment in Ocala and you could hand-pick not only your jury, but also your judge. In this case, Judge William Terrell Hodges, a Richard Milhous Nixon-appointed southern judge who boasted how he never let defense attorneys ask questions to probe bias in jurors. Hodges usually sat a jury within an hour of their walking into the courtroom.
Wesley Snipes’ tax attorney Robert Barnes ensured Snipes was acquitted.
So welcome to Wesley Snipes trial — fathered by a corrupt financial advisor the government was covering up for while the financial advisor was busy robbing the last dime from elderly matrons to support his new stripper wife; judged by an all-white jury pool in a community known for racial hatred; and set before a government-hand-picked judge known for letting biased juries sit in judgment. But that’s was just the beginning.
Corrupt prosecutions of the innocent always need treachery, a traitor, a Judas, to fill out the script. And so it was here. The government called a witness, Carmen Baker, whom Wesley Snipes had elevated to new levels of financial and professional success. Unknown to Wesley Snipes, Baker had a problem with the IRS — she had been lying on various government forms about her income. Carmen Baker admitting she was a liar and perjurer for years before the IRS coerced her to lie about Wesley Snipes.
The IRS cut the deal they always cut — they asked her to lie about Wesley Snipes, which she did on the stand. Of note, of the hundreds of employees, professionals, co-workers and employers of Wesley Snipes, how many could the IRS to find a single bad word about Wesley Snipes other than Carmen Baker? None. Zero. Nunca. Nada. They had to coerce someone to lie, and then hide their coercion and secret deals from the jury. And they did just that.
According to what the government told the jury, Carmen Baker was crystal clean and had no tax problems ever. The government lied to the jury, and the judge rewarded the government for it. Then a YouTube video leaked from someone shocked to see what was happening. What did it expose? Carmen Baker admitting she was a liar and perjurer for years before the IRS coerced her to lie about Wesley Snipes.
So let’s review.
1. The two main witnesses against Wesley Snipes – Carmen Barker and Kenneth Starr – were two known liars, fraudsters and perjurers. But the judge allowed the government to hide these very facts from the jury.
2. A corrupt indictment wasn’t enough, a biased venue wasn’t enough and a hand-picked judge wasn’t enough. The government had to use two perjurers and fraudsters to try to put an innocent man in prison.
It happens to be Wesley Snipes’ story, but you can hear the same story any time you hear of an innocent man wrongly prosecuted, wrongly charged and wrongly imprisoned. Wesley Snipes is an innocent man who should never have spent one single day in jail.
Wesley Snipes’ attorney Robert Barnes exclusively represents a limited number of clients on tax law cases in order to provide the best possible outcomes. If you need help or expert advice, please contact him immediately.
Your Future. Your Freedom. Your Call.
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