Celebrity Scapegoating

A news report says that actor Wesley Snipes gets a three-year prison sentence for tax evasion.

Tax evaders, like Kent Hovind, should do the time their cases indicate.

But there’s something extra to the Snipes case, according the the report.

“This case cries out for the statutory maximum term of imprisonment, as well as a substantial fine, because of the seriousness of defendant Snipes’ crimes and because of the singular opportunity this case presents to deter tax crimes nationwide,” prosecutors wrote in a memorandum to the judge, as quoted by the AP.

Uh, no. It corrupts our system of jurisprudence if individuals are sentenced based upon “opportunities” and not upon the specific facts of the case. If this advice were followed, obscurity ought to let offenders out on the street, because no one pays attention to them, and anyone with name recognition would have to beware any brush with the law. If the government wants people to know that tax evasion doesn’t work, it should develop a reputation for assiduously tracking down and fairly prosecuting each such case, not taking the cheap route of nailing the occasional celebrity.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

3 thoughts on “Celebrity Scapegoating

  • 2008/04/25 at 3:08 pm
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    The flip side of this, that a celebrity may get a pass on bad behavior, is just as odious and corrosive to jurisprudence.

  • 2008/04/27 at 3:04 pm
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    Well it’s interesting the Snipes case was held in a criminal court where the burden of proof is much higher than civil court. Normally for tax related charges are conducted in a civil court rather than a criminal court.

    Jo Hovind who is Kent’s wife, she was also found guilty (by the same jury who convicted her husband) for not reporting bank record records 45 times. She had to pay an 8,000 fine, spend a year in prison, and then 3 more years on probation.

    Westley Snipes fights for 10 years to avoid paying his taxes, and finally when the gig is up, and he was about to be sentenced, he finally writes out a check for 5 million to pay for his taxes that he owed. Such arrogance. He deserved what he got.

  • 2008/04/27 at 7:39 pm
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    Sounds like they all deserved it. IIRC, Kent and Jo Hovind were also convicted of criminal tax evasion.

    Had the prosecutors said, “Snipes is a weasel and deserves the maximum prison term, period,” I would have had no comment. It was because they made the appeal to extraneous “opportunity” as well that there was any issue here.

    I don’t recall the prosecutors in the Hovind case asking for extra punishment based on the “celebrity” factor. As far as the news reports gave it, all they referred to was the egregious nature of the Hovinds’ efforts to evade taxes.

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