Wesley Snipes Acquitted of Tax Fraud

The actor is convicted of failure to file taxes and faces up to three years in prison

Photo: Joe Kaleita/AP

Wesley Snipes was acquitted of tax fraud but was convicted of failure to file taxes, in a Florida courtroom Friday.

Snipes, 45, who was convicted of three misdemeanor counts of failing to file a tax return, faces up to three years in federal prison. His income over the period of time in which he failed to file amounted to millions of dollars.

He was acquitted of two felonies, including conspiracy to commit tax fraud. He was also acquitted of three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file a tax return.

The actor, who is currently free on bond, told PEOPLE after the ruling: “I’m feeling great – a little confused, but great.” Asked if he is worried about going to prison, he said, “I don’t know. It’s nice to be out here with you right now. We live in the moment.”

A Florida jury of seven women and five men announced the verdict Friday afternoon, after beginning deliberations Wednesday.

During the course of the trial, attorneys for the actor admitted he was “dead wrong” not to have paid taxes and that he would make restitution. In so arguing, they also claimed that no fraud was perpetrated and that no trial was even necessary.

“Disagreement with the IRS is not fraud of the IRS, is not deception,” argued defense attorney Robert Barnes.

When the day’s session concluded on Tuesday, Snipes said outside the courthouse, “Of course you would be nervous,. You’re on trial. Anybody would have a certain amount of anxiety about that. But I have a great deal of faith in the Most High and the Good Lord and the truth shall set you free. So, I’m looking forward to being free, going back to what I do best.”

Snipes, who starred in the Blade vampire trilogy, as a cross-dresser in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar and as a fugitive in U.S. Marshals, is due to be seen later this year in Gallowwalker, which was shot in the African nation of Namibia.

Snipes was convicted along with his accountant and the founder of a tax-protest outfit called American Rights Litigators.

“The defendants know what the law is, they just don’t like the law,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Scotland Morris told the jury members before they went to verdict. “The defendants are tax protesters.”

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