Why did Wesley Snipes go to jail

Tax Fraud: Wesley Snipes sentenced to three years in prison

Los Angeles (AP) - No "happy ending" for Hollywood action star Wesley Snipes: The 45-year-old actor has to be behind bars for three years because of tax fraud. This is the highest possible sentence that the Florida state attorney has asked.

Judge William Terrell Hodges followed suit for harsh punishment on Thursday after a dramatic day in court. The public should not get the impression "that the rich and famous Wesley Snipes can get away with it," the prosecution had urged. The defense argued in vain: "Wesley Snipes is not a dangerous man to be put in jail for the protection of the public."

The actor, dressed in a suit and tie, had nothing in common with the tough men who Snipes played in "Blade", "Demolition Man" or "Drop Zone". He apologized in court for his "mistakes and errors". "I admit I've let myself, my family and society down," said Snipes. "I beg the court for mercy." He described himself as an "idealistic, naive, passionate and truth-seeking" artist who had good intentions but followed bad advice.

It is also of no avail that Snipes' attorneys presented the judge with letters from prominent friends of the star, including petitions from Denzel Washington and Woody Harrelson, who stood up for the colleague. In the end, Snipes pulled out a check for five million dollars to promptly settle part of the tax debt. But the judge was tough.

The drama began in October 2006 with a tax fraud charge and the search for Snipes on an arrest warrant. The public prosecutor's office accused him of having paid far too low income tax from 1999 to 2004. In addition, he is said to have sneaked almost twelve million dollars (eight million euros) in repayments in 1996 and 1997 through false information. Snipes said he had been given the wrong advice.

A jury acquitted the African-American in February of the more serious allegations of fraud and conspiracy. The twelve jurors found Snipes guilty of not paying taxes for three years. "I feel great, a little confused, but good," said Snipes two months ago after his partial success in court. If convicted on all counts, he would face up to 16 years in prison.

When the sentence was announced, Snipes did not move a face, eyewitnesses reported. His wife, the Korean artist Nikki Park, collapsed crying. The couple has been married since 2003 and has four young children. Snipes' lawyers were combative. "We had expected an acquittal," said lawyer Linda Moreno of the "New York Times". "We will appeal". At first it was unclear when Snipes would have to start prison sentence. The actor was released on bail during the trial.

Snipes' heyday as a sought-after action star and top earner in Hollywood was years ago. The third "Blade" episode with the martial artist as a vampire hunter made it to the cinema in 2004. Since then, Snipes has been involved in low-budget thrillers, including "Hard Luck" and "The Contractor," which only appeared on video. He took his first film role after drama school in 1986 in the football strip "American Wildcats". He played a police officer in "King of New York" and a drug dealer in "New Jack City". He directed the drama "Jungle Fever" with Spike Lee in 1991, and a year later he shone as a street basketball player in "White Boys Can't Bring It".

With hits like "Blade" and "Demolition Man" he advanced to an action star in the 90s, but he also got involved in smaller productions. In the comedy "For Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" he acted as a shrill transvestite. At the 54th Venice Film Festival in 1997, he was honored as best actor for his performance in the drama "One Night Stand" alongside Nastassja Kinski. The film tells the story and the aftermath of a unique night of love between a black and white couple in New York. Most recently he was in front of the camera for the not yet released horror film "Gallowwalker" in Namibia, Africa.