Following the federal imprisonment of actor Wesley Snipes on a three-year sentence for failure to file income tax returns, a collection of celebrities, politicians, friends and supporters are demanding the actor receive a fair trial.

A group calling itself The Friends of Wesley Snipes is pushing a petition for the famous actor in order to bring awareness to perceived misconduct during his trial. Spearheading the movement is Snipes’ wife Nicky and a laundry list of celebrities and supporters including the Rev. Al Sharpton, Denzel Washington, Judge Joe Brown, among thousands of other supporters.

According to CNN, Snipes reported to a Pennsylvania federal prison camp on Dec. 9 for not filing tax returns in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Though Snipes initially faced felony charges of tax fraud and conspiracy, those charges were later dropped and Snipes was charged with misdemeanor violations.

Prosecutors argued that Snipes had received $40 million since 1999, but had not completed tax returns and was involved in a tax resisters group. The actor denied his involvement and said his failure to file was due to a mistake by his financial advisor.

The Friends of Snipes contend on their Web site that, in addition to Snipes unfairly receiving the maximum sentence of three years in prison on misdemeanor charges, he was denied an appeal. Additionally, the group claims that two jurors from the Snipes trial sent out e-mails explaining that three other jurors presumed that Snipes was guilty before the trial began. In their e-mails, the two jurors claimed the remaining jurors, in rendering their verdict, never believed that Snipes would be sent to jail, and felt they needed to come forward to show misconduct.

But Judge Hodges, who issued Snipes’ sentence, declined to interview the jurors to confirm any misconduct and issue the actor a new trial.

Snipes’ lawyer, attorney Daniel Meachum, said a brief for Snipes’ appeal will be submitted in January and the petition is slated to be submitted to the Supreme Court in February.

“It’s not so much a case about Wesley Snipes, but it’s a case about the judicial process right now,” Meachum told the AFRO during a recent interview. “This case is about the everyday man. Wesley Snipes is actually just a vessel because there’s a bunch of people—Black and White—who have been incarcerated when they don’t necessarily need to be there, because the prosecution has not turned over all the discoveries that they’re required to do. Wesley’s just one of many victims in this system.”

Gregory Dale

AFRO News Editor