Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wesley Snipes - Patriot or Plain Idiot?

How many times did I hear in federal prison, people convicted of tax fraud claiming that they were just patriots imprisoned by a government gone amok. Fact was - they were in prison for their misguided belief. Considering that today the closing arguments were being made in the Wesley Snipes tax fraud case, we will likely see either a conviction (my prediction) or the miracle of the century - Snipes acquittal.

Federal prosecutor M. Scotland Morris portrays Wesley Snipes as a common criminal with worked with idiots like Eddie Ray Kahn to defraud the government of their duties as a citizen to file and pay their taxes. While Robert Barnes, Snipes attorney, portrays Snipes as a patriotic American who was legitimately seeking information about his tax liability. (If the jury buys that one - well, there's some outstanding property in the Everglades for sale.)

According to Rick Cundiff with the Star-Banner:

Prosecutor Morris went first, telling jurors Snipes conspired with Kahn and Rosile to file a fraudulent refund claim for $7.3 million in taxes on his 1997 return, and sought to illegally deny his ongoing tax liability for 1999 through 2004.

"Nobody likes paying taxes. Nobody," Morris said. "But paying taxes is the privilege we pay to live in a civilized society ... That's what this case is about - three men who believe they are above the law. They're not above the law. Tell them that."

Barnes invoked the Founding Fathers and said the Internal Revenue Service deprived Snipes of his civil rights by not responding to his letters seeking information.

"It may have been protest," he said of filings by Snipes and by Kahn on Snipes' behalf. "Protest is not criminal. It may have been disagreement. Disagreement is not criminal. It may have been frivolous. Frivolous is not fraud."

Barnes urged jurors to acquit Snipes in the name of American freedoms.

In the name of American freedoms? What American freedom is it that allows us to avoid filing tax returns? What American freedom is it that allows us to avoid paying income taxes on the money we earn? What is Barnes talking about?

"The liberty to ask questions ... the liberty to challenge your government. The liberty to engage your government. These liberties are American liberties," Barnes said. "The Liberty Bell may be cracked in Philadelphia, but it can still be heard in Ocala."

The last time I checked, challenging your government was perfectly legal as long as it was done through the legal legislative or judicial process. Here Snipes is taking the judicial road to challenge something he will lose and ultimately end up paying the price with his freedom. Sorry, but that to me is the mark of a plain idiot.

Every choice has a consequence. Snipes (unless I'm dramatically wrong) will pay the price of his choices with his freedom and while he spends time in federal prison, perhaps will come the knowing that he was duped by the likes of Kahn. But, maybe not, maybe they'll share a cell together so they can experience the joy of knowing they took a stand for the civil liberties of us all.

For now, I'm going to do my tax return.

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