Wesley Snipes' attorneys are hoping his former financial adviser's arrest could pave the way for a new trial on tax evasion charges that landed the star of the "Blade" trilogy a three-year prison sentence.
Snipes has for months been seeking to have his conviction overturned, but now his attorneys want to file a new appeal based on the arrest of Kenneth Starr.
Starr, the one-time financial adviser to Snipes and other celebrities, was charged in May with securities fraud worth $59 million. Starr was a key witness in Snipes' 2008 trial and testified that he told the movie star to file tax returns and ignore the advice he got from an anti-tax outfit.
Snipes' attorneys asked the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in a motion filed Wednesday to stop considering the pending appeal and instead allow his attorneys to file a new request to either dismiss the conviction or grantSnipes a new trial in light of his adviser's arrest.
The motion contends that prosecutors knew that Starr, who has pleaded not guilty, was under federal investigation for tax violations of his own when he testified against Snipes in January 2008. Defense attorneys said in the filing such an investigation damages Starr's credibility.
Snipes attorney Daniel Meachum said in the motion that the charges against Starr "revealed new evidence pointing to a miscarriage of justice at Mr. Snipes' trial."
The actor was convicted of three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file his income tax returns and sentenced in April 2008 in what was considered a key victory for prosecutors who aggressively pursued the maximum penalty to deter others from trying to obstruct the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. federal tax agency.
Prosecutors say he made at least $13.8 million over three years and owed $2.7 million in back taxes that he refused to pay. And Snipes, who is free on bail while he appeals, apologized at the time and said he was an idealistic artist who was "unschooled in the science of law and finance."
His attorneys have asked the federal appeals court in Atlanta to review what they said was an "unreasonable" sentence, while prosecutors countered that the prison term was justified because Snipes had hidden his money using sham entities, corporate shells and offshore financial accounts.