Wesley Snipes: The System Doesn't Seem to Be Working for Me

In only interview before surrendering for three-year prison term on Thursday, actor says he feels "a certain amount of selectivity" has gone on

By Natalie Finn Dec 08, 2010 4:00 AMTags

First off, Wesley Snipes would like to make it clear that he's going to prison for avoiding, not evading, taxes.

"I was never charged with tax evasion," the Blade star, who's been ordered to surrender by Thursday at noon to begin his three-year stay in a Pennsylvania federal prison, stated tonight on Larry King Live.  "I was convicted of three misdemeanors of willful failure to file a form."

"And how is that different from evasion?" inquired King, bless him.

"Well, I'm not the lawyer, Larry, so I'll let the lawyer explain that a little bit further," Snipes evaded the question replied.

"Tax evasion is a felony," explained attorney Daniel R. Meachum. "Willful failure to file a form is a misdemeanor. In other words, Larry, I would venture to say, as long as you've been alive, there have probably been some friends of yours who did not file their tax return forms by April the 15th of each year."

"That is in fact the crime that Mr. Snipes has been charged with."

Snipes was sentenced to 36 months in prison, the maximum 12 months per misdemeanor count he was convicted of. He was acquitted of more serious charges of felony conspiracy and fraud.

The actor further asserted that he was neither "co-conspirator" nor "architect of a scheme," but rather was a client of an adviser whom he trusted to protect his interests.

"It's been presented as though I am worthy of this kind of punishment, it's been presented that 'he's getting his just due,' " Snipes said. "I've been a law-abiding citizen ever since I grew up in the Bronx, New York...We all have a right to be considered innocent until proven guilty."

"I'm more upset and disappointed that the system seems to not be working for me in this situation."

When asked whether he felt he was being "singled out," Snipes agreed that he sensed "a certain amount of selectivity going on."

"It does seem to be rather unusual, rather bizarre, when you had a prosecutor come into the sentencing and make the statement that this was the biggest tax trial in the history of the IRS," the Major League star said. "He also made...a plea to the judge asking him not to offer community service because 'Mr. Snipes has too many fans…They'll think that he has won.'"

But despite the previous unwillingness of a higher court to intervene in Snipes' fate, the actor hasn't given up hope for a last-minute reprieve.

"We still believe in miracles, Larry, so don't send me up the river just yet," he said, only half-joking.

Waiting just up the river is the McKean Federal Correctional Institution in Lewis Run, Pa.