Wesley Snipes Tax Trial
"The IRS is not on trial here!"
By: Bill E. Branscum
Copyright 2007, 2008

The reader should note that this article has been an ongoing work in progress, written and updated sequentially as things developed.

The pundits are reporting this as the case that cannot be won, and the odds makers are predicting a ninety percent conviction rate. Personally, I find myself thinking that the "talking heads" might do better, and the public be better served, if they spent a little more time in the court room. I am sure that those of you who have worked "news-worthy" cases can relate to that, "where was I when that happened" feeling. Some of the coverage has been outright libelous.

I do not proffer this as an effort to "get the truth out" myself -- the comments I have made on the various network forums to which I belong have not been well received by my professional associates. Wesley Snipes is a Client, but that does not affect my perception of the situation - in my view, he's not guilty of the charges alleged. Being the only Southerner on the trial team, perhaps I have too much faith that an Ocala jury will be fair and impartial, but I have seen the evidence, I know what the evidence shows, and I cannot imagine that a jury of my peers is going to convict him. Time will tell, but it is troubling to me to see people whom I expected to know better suggest that I have somehow sold out my personal credibility in expressing that opinion.

In any event, by the time this article reaches the search engines, this case will be old news, and nobody but those of us who were involved in it will care anymore.

This is an investigator's web site, with material intended for other investigators. This case presents an opportunity to walk thru the investigative process, as well as some of the procedural issues uniquely attendant to federal criminal trials. It is my intention to leave the "Who shot John" to others; this article is offered in the hope that it will serve to provide colleagues who have not been involved in cases like this, an introduction as to what to expect when they walk into the surreal atmosphere of a high profile, federal criminal prosecution.

Where to begin? Generally, things are best begun at the beginning, but I am not sure how to define the term "beginning" with respect to a federal criminal case. As a matter of law, I suppose that you could say that a "conspiracy case" begins with the first alleged act of the conspiracy, but investigators can scarcely begin with that. Alternatively, one could argue that the criminal case actually begins with the "indictment" of the accused, which is not the place I would choose to begin, but I do want to provide copies of the Indictment, and Superseding Indictment, at this point, as an introduction to the allegations underlying the federal criminal prosecution of Wesley Trent Snipes.

Indictment, Wesley Snipes et al.

According to the original Indictment, on April 5, 2006, Eddie Kahn, Douglas Rosile and Wesley Snipes were indicted in the Middle District of Florida. The United States alleged that Eddie Kahn, Douglas Rosile and Wesley Snipes violated Title 18 United States Code, Sections 287 and 2, in that Eddie Kahn, and Douglas Rosile were alleged to have prepared nine (9) federal tax forms claiming refunds for various individuals, knowing that the claims for refunds were false, fictitious, and [sic] fraudulent, including a 1997 1040X for Wesley Snipes, as referenced in Count Nine of the Indictment.

Title 18 USC, § 287 says:

Whoever makes or presents to any person or officer in the civil, military, or naval service of the United States, or to any department or agency thereof, any claim upon or against the United States, or any department or agency thereof, knowing such claim to be false, fictitious, or fraudulent, shall be imprisoned not more than five years and shall be subject to a fine in the amount provided in this title.

Title 18 USC, § 2 says:

(a) Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.

(b) Whoever willfully causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense against the United States, is punishable as a principal.

This is an interesting provision of the Unites States Code. Note that Title 18 USC, Section 2 serves to collect together various inchoate offenses, and establish principal liability regarding these roles. Note also that this is different than the inchoate offense of "Accessory After the Fact," as cognizable under 18 USC. § 3. Compare also to Conspiracy, as cognizable under Title 18 USC § 371; being a conspirator can be worse than being a principal.

In any event, note that the original, nine count Indictment targeted Kahn and Rosile regarding eight allegations, it included Wesley Snipes with respect only to Count Nine, and it included no "tax" related allegations cognizable under Title 26 USC at all.

Superseding Indictment, Wesley Snipes, et al.

In superseding an indictment, the government adds charges, or additional defendants, but the pursuit of those charges also allows the government to continue to use the awesome power of the Federal Grand Jury. In a criminal case, the power of the grand jury cannot be used solely to obtain additional evidence against a defendant who has already been indicted; the grand jury cannot be used as an instrument of pre-trial discovery or trial preparation. After indictment, the power of the grand jury is only available to the government if its investigation is related to an effort to supersede the prior bill.

On October 12, 2006, the United States of America persuaded a Federal Grand Jury to return a Superceding Indictment. This document reflects that the government alleged that Eddie Kahn, Douglas Rosile and Wesley Snipes violated:

Title 18 United States Code, Section 371 (Conspiracy); and
Title 18 United States Code, Sections 287 and 2 (False Claims); and (with respect to Snipes)
Title 26, United States Code Section 7203 (Failure to File).

Specifically, the Superseding Indictment alleges that:

According to Count One, the Superseding Indictment alleges that, from 1999 thru 2006, in the Middle District of Florida and elsewhere, Wesley Snipes, identified as a resident of Wendermere Florida, and Eddie Ray Kahn, who was identified as the Principal behind American Rights Litigators [ARL] and Guiding Light Ministries of God [GLGM] which were described as being commercial enterprises that promoted fraudulent tax schemes, along with Douglas P. Rosile, who was identified as a former CPA who continued to work as a CPA after his licenses in Ohio and Florida were revoked, conspired to defraud the United States. Conspiracy is a felony cognizable under the provisions of Title 18 USC § 371 which says:

If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

According to Count Two, the Superseding Indictment alleges that, on April 11, 2001, in the Middle District of Florida and elsewhere, Wesley Snipes, Eddie Ray Kahn, and Douglas P. Rosile, knowingly made a materially fraudulent claim for payment against the United States, in that they presented, or caused to be presented, to the IRS an amended federal income tax return (Form 1040X) for Defendant Snipes for the tax year 1997, claiming a refund in the amount of $7,360,755.00 knowing the claim to be fraudulent. Filing a Fraudulent Claim is a felony cognizable under the provisions of Title 18 USC § 287, and anyone who aids and abets is chargeable as a Principal pursuant to the provisions of 18 USC § 2, as set forth above

According to Counts Three thru Eight, the Superseding Indictment alleges that, in the Middle District of Florida and elsewhere, Wesley Snipes, willfully failed to file tax returns for tax years 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 respectively. Willful Failure to File is a misdemeanor cognizable under the provisions of Title 26 USC § 7203 which says:

Any person required under this title to pay any estimated tax or tax, or required by this title or by regulations made under authority thereof to make a return, keep any records, or supply any information, who willfully fails to pay such estimated tax or tax, make such return, keep such records, or supply such information, at the time or times required by law or regulations, shall, in addition to other penalties provided by law, be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $25,000 ($100,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.

So that's what we are looking at going in, an exposure for Wesley Snipes of approximately sixteen (16) years.

For those who may be interested, I have tried to provide some general background regarding Federal Grand Juries, and the indictment process.

The Federal Grand Jury and the Indictment

Update: The Trial

The trial is over, and I have a number of comments and observations to make, but for now I must focus on cases I have left unattended while I have been here in Ocala. I'll publish the transcripts and leave it to those who are interested to formulate their own "informed" opinions. One thing is for certain, anytime the government proclaims, "The IRS is not on trial here," it's a safe bet that the IRS was put on trial, and the government is concerned that they did not do well.

For the moment, I just want to say that this case resolved to be the spectacular win that it was largely because of the work of two people, "unsung heroes" if ever there were any. Bret C. Tollefson, a law school graduate awaiting his opportunity to take the bar exam, and Robert Raymond, who manages discovery and trial preparation for the Law Firm of Robert G. Bernhoft, did a job in this case that will never be adequately acknowledged. They worked like every Client would like to think that their team works, tirelessly and relentlessly making sure that the attorneys working in the well were completely prepared, and supported, every day.

Update: The Sentencing

Once the jury has returned a verdict, there remains a lot of work to do, unless the trial team achieved an acquittal on all counts. Although the defense team did an incredible job in this case, resulting in acquittals on the felony counts, as well as three of the six misdemeanor Failure to File counts, Wesley Snipes stood to be sentenced for the remaining three misdemeanors.

As was published widely throughout the media, Wesley Snipes chose to rely upon some new people to assist him thru sentencing. Insofar as I am aware, there was no dispute of any kind. I believe that people he trusted persuaded him to rely upon "experts" who were represented to be exceptionally competent attorneys, specializing in sentencing. There is a lot more strategy and gamesmanship involved in this than one might think, so anyone facing the possibility of going to jail would be a fool not to rely upon the best qualified people he could find.

Unfortunately, had Wesley Snipes chosen to show up all by himself in a clown outfit, and bait Judge William T. Hodges with, "Billy Boy, you just bring it on," he could not have fared any worse.

I am not going to offer an opinion, or even a comment as to what transpired here; I do not believe that I need to. The entire transcript is appended below.

I will say that I have known Wesley Snipes for several years now, I have talked to him privately on many occasions, I have accompanied him publicly, and I have seen him under pressure that few people ever have to deal with, under circumstances where the people around him would have made anyone crazy. To me, his life would be a nightmare. Everyone around him has an angle or an agenda, anyone who was ever on a first name basis thinks he owes them something, he cannot believe anything that anyone tells him, and he has been a target for everyone from that nitwit Indiana prosecutor who created that bogus paternity case, to the Internal Revenue Service.

I have never known Wesley Snipes to conduct himself with anything less than dignity, courtesy and respect towards anyone. He has made some mistakes, but he is a decent man, and he deserved better than he got.

Oracle International
Bill E. Branscum, Investigator
(239) 304-1639


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