Lawyers for actor Wesley Snipes have filed a motion requesting a change of venue in his tax evasion trial, claiming that the current location is "a hotbed of Klan activity."
Snipes was indicted in October 2006 for claiming a total of nearly $12 million in fraudulent tax refunds in 1996 and 1997 and for failing to file tax returns between 1999 and 2004. The trial was scheduled to begin in January in Ocala, Fla.
However, the Blade trilogy star's lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss the indictment or change the venue. Snipes' lawyers say the government "deliberately chose the most racially discriminatory venue available to the government with the best possibility of an all-white southern jury where Snipes has never resided." They also claim the district where the trial is scheduled to take place has only a single judge and that the government deliberately avoided a random assignment of judges.
Snipes' lawyers pointed out that prosecutors could have chosen New York City, where racially diverse juries are common, as the venue for the trial. That was the listed domicile for Snipes on his tax returns, and he has never resided in Ocala.
Some related misdemeanor charges actually occurred in Orlando, where Snipes would have been able to receive a random selection of judges. The choice of Ocala, according to Snipes' lawyers, was racist.
"While many Ocala jurors may be fair, substantial pockets of prejudice persist in the Ocala area," said the motion. "The Ocala area features statues commemorating the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, is a hotbed of Klan activity where the Klan adopted highways to commemorate the Klan, and the Confederate flag flies over government property."
Snipes' co-defendant in the case, Eddie Ray Kahn, allegedly provided tax evasion information to Snipes from nearby Lake County, Fla. The motion from Snipes' lawyers claimed, "The government unlawfully kidnapped a co-defendant and lied to government officials in Panama in order to obtain and use the pre-trial incarceration of a co-defendant as a way to manufacture and manipulate a racially discriminatory venue away from Snipes' residence."
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