Looks like Passenger 57 is now “Prisoner 57”. Actor and longtime tax vigilante Wesley Snipes found himself hopping from court to court on tax evasion charges and other financial evasion charges that dated back to the mid-90’s, including a conspiracy to defraud the government. Traci Billingsley, Chief Public Information Officer for the Bureau of Prisons, notes that “Wesley Snipes has self surrendered to the minimum security Federal Prison Camp at the Federal Correctional Institution McKean, in Bradford, Pennsylvania.” Many of us remember Snipes as the rough, chisel-bodied Black sex symbol of the 90’s, and made his appearances in films such as New Jack City and as the intimidating vampire slayer in the Blade trinity. But now…he’s just another Black male in prison, and Snipes will now be known as “prison inmate No. 43355-018 i”. During a recent interview with Larry King, which was his last interview before surrendering, when asked about whether or not his trial was fair, Snipes stated that there was “a certain amount of selectivity”. In essence, it leaves one to wonder….considering all the evidence and statements made during the trial (including a confession from a juror), was there a bit of racism or injustice in Snipes’ sentencing? (see video below)
We have done posts on Black men in the prison system, and how most young Black men are more likely to be incarcerated than graduate from high school. But another dynamic determines their fate; sometimes injustice is exercised in the courtroom. It was noted that Snipes’ trial was the biggest tax evasion suit in the history of the IRS. With that kind of title hanging over the heads of the “Revenue” service, would they take the opportunity to pardon his actions and slap him on the wrist with community service and a settlement? (pause for thought…) Was it a matter of coincidence that the flagship trial was centered around a Black actor, or did the trial community not want to see a Black celebrity get off easily? Snipes could have easily been considered for probation, and even filed an appeal to be considered for that…it ultimately denied. Through it all, Wesley Snipes remained faith-based and prayerful about the outcome, telling Larry King not to “send me up the river just yet”. Alas, even after making a down payment on his late taxes and offering several bargains, it just wasn’t enough. On Thursday, December 9, 2010, Snipes surrendered to authorities and will spend the next 3 years in a minimum security prison for white-collared men (sort of like a dormitory for professionals….)
Watch Snipes’ CNN interview with Larry King and let’s hear your thoughts on the matter! Even after hearing about juror misconduct in the trial, was it lawfully correct to still sentence him? Could this piece of evidence wait until his next appeal in court?