Opening Arguments Begin Wednesday in Wesley Snipes' Tax Trial
OCALA, Fla. – Wesley Snipes may have to waive a claim that he previously received ineffective counsel, a judge said Tuesday after jury selection concluded in the actor's tax trial.
Snipes was initially represented by two lawyers who also defended Michael Vick in the football player's dogfighting case. One of them, Daniel Meachum of Atlanta, is one of Snipes' longest-serving advisers.
Both were dismissed by the action star last year, with Snipes saying that he received ineffective counsel and that attorney Billy Martin ignored his case in favor of Vick's. U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges at the time agreed to delay the trial but called it a ploy.
Meachum tried to rejoin Snipes on Monday, and Hodges took immediate issue.
The attorney said he withdrew for medical reasons, not because he provided ineffective counsel. But Hodges wouldn't entertain the argument, saying the earlier motion was fraudulent if the new one was true.
He gave Snipes' team two choices: Keep Meachum off the case and in the court gallery, or waive previous claims of ineffective counsel that could be important on appeal.
Snipes and two co-defendants were charged in an October 2006 indictment with fraudulently claiming $11 million in refunds on 1996 and 1997 income taxes already paid. The star of the "Blade" trilogy and other films also was charged with failure to file returns from 1999 through 2004.
Snipes has not spoken about the case, inside court or out, since the trial began. Opening arguments were scheduled for Wednesday after two days of jury selection concluded.
More than 60 potential jurors were questioned, and five men and 11 women were eventually chosen.
None in the potential jury pool was black -- of note because Snipes' attorneys tried to have the trial moved. The black actor claimed in filings that the area was racist.
Most in the pool had heard of the case, but not in depth. Only a handful told the judge they knew of the race claim, and one of those women made it onto the panel.