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Defense Team for Wesley Snipes May Be in Luck

July 14, 2010


After 2 years of appeals over actor Wesley Snipes’ 2008 conviction on three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file taxes, a recent development may have given Snipes’ defense team new legal ammunition. Kenneth I. Starr, Snipes’ former financial advisor and a key witness in the case against the actor, has been indicted on charges of money laundering and securities fraud.

Starr, who has been accused of stealing millions from a variety of celebrities, gave testimony at Snipes’ trial that many believe was key in the guilty verdict against him. Although Snipes claimed otherwise, Starr testified that he had advised the actor to file his taxes despite advice Snipes had received to the contrary from other sources. Now that Starr’s credibility has been called into question, attorneys for Snipes have filed a motion for a new trial.

In the motion, Snipes’ defense team asserts that the prosecution knew that Starr was under investigation for fraud at the time he gave his testimony in the winter of 2008. If the court finds that Starr’s recent indictment undermines his credibility enough to render his testimony against the actor unreliable, Snipes may be entitled to a new trial.

Snipes escaped conviction on the more serious felony counts of conspiracy and tax fraud after being linked to what many have called “illegal tax evasion schemes.” At the time the charges were brought against Snipes, he was a member of the American Rights Litigators, an organization involved in filing bogus tax refund claims with the IRS. In light of other evidence against Snipes, it remains to be seen if the court will find that invalidating Starr’s testimony will be enough to vacate the conviction.

Tax Crimes