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Actor, TV judges put in good word for Snipes

  • Story Highlights
  • Woody Harrelson, Judge Joe Brown among character references
  • TV Judge Greg Mathis also asks for mercy for actor
  • Snipes was facing sentencing for tax evasion
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By Ann O'Neill Crime Producer
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(CNN) -- Actor Woody Harrelson and TV show judges Joe Brown and Greg Mathis are among the people who wrote character references for actor Wesley Snipes.

Wesley Snipes, sentenced to three years in prison, starred in "Blade," "Major League" and "Murder at 1600."

Federal prosecutors had sought to make an example of Snipes, who was convicted of tax evasion in a Florida federal court, and asked U.S. District Judge William Hodges to impose the maximum sentence.

He did. Snipes on Thursday was sentenced to the maximum three years in prison and fined up to $5 million.

The defense said that until his conviction, Snipes had led an exemplary life. They are asking for a probationary sentence. Video Watch Snipes walk into court »

Here are some excerpts from 31 character reference letters filed with the court:

"I've known Wes over 20 years, since the very beginning of my career," Harrelson wrote. "My first movie was also his first movie, "Wildcats," with Goldie Hawn."

He continued that he and Hawn were the only "Caucasians on the team" and that "It was the first time I experienced racism towards me." Harrelson wrote that Snipes took the time to discuss racial issues with him and the others, turning around what could have been "an ugly situation."

Harrelson called Snipes "a true citizen of the world,' adding, "Wes continues to encourage and challenge me to be the best man I can be by being a constant friend."

Brown and Mathis are each real-life judges who star in syndicated reality TV shows named after them.

Brown said he was writing not as a celebrity but as a "humble citizen" and asked for leniency. He called Snipes "one of those rare individuals possessed of an extremely developed social conscience."

He added that Snipes had placed his trust and confidence in the wrong people. "The person before you is a trusting, sometimes gullible, individual who is vulnerable to the opportunists invariably drawn to such celebrities as your defendant. ... "

Mathis wrote that Snipes "has become educated on the pitfalls of being generous, trustworthy and honest" and that his "honest nature" got him into trouble.

"I strongly believe that jail time would not benefit Wesley and respectfully request leniency from the court," Mathis wrote on stationary with the logo, "Justice that makes a difference."

Other character references came from Snipes' Beverly Hills tailor, a professional stunt man, a couple of pastors, a monk, a casting professional, a college dean, a talent agent, and a man who runs a martial arts school with actor Chuck Norris.

Snipes has starred in movies such as "Blade," "Major League" and "Murder at 1600."


He was accused of participating in a scheme that rejects the legal foundation of the tax system.

But the jury accepted his argument that he was innocently duped by errant tax advisers, acquitting him of the most serious charges. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Wesley SnipesInternal Revenue Service

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