Snipes' Attorney Fights For Court Change On Racism Grounds
Attorneys representing Blade star Wesley Snipes are attempting to move the actor's upcoming tax evasion trial from a Florida court because they fear their client will be judged on his colour. In a motion filed in U.S. District Court, Snipes' lawyer argued that the U.S. Attorney's Office wilfully selected the Ocala courthouse in Marion County because it's one of the "most racially discriminatory venue available". Lawyer Robert Bernhoft claims the court was picked because the locally-selected jury is likely to be made up of "an all-white Southern jury", adding the area is a "hotbed of (Ku Klux) Klan activity". The attorney asks for the charges against Snipes to be dismissed, or the trial moved to New York. Snipes was served with federal indictment charges for fraudulently claiming tax refunds totalling almost $12 million (GBP6 million) in 2006. The actor, 45, was also charged with failure to file tax returns for the five years following 1999. His trial is scheduled to begin in January (08). Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway has dismissed the racism claims, stating, "That's perhaps the most outrageous claim I've ever heard made in open court."