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February 16, 2019

Star Power does not Entitle Free Pass

By Michael H. Joseph

On March 28, 2018, DMX, the rapper also known as Earl Simmons, was sentenced to one-year prison term for tax evasion along with three years of supervised release.  U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff imposed no fines for Simmons, but imposed $2.2 million in restitution.

Simmons, 47, was convicted of not paying $1.7 million in taxes between 2002 and 2005. Simmons pleaded not guilty after he was arrested. Simmons defense team said that his client had relied on hired hands to take care of his tax obligations while he focused on his work in music and film. However, Simmons later changed his tune and on Nov. 30, 2017 pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion. Simmons took the responsibility for not paying his taxes, and said that he did not willingly plot to cheat the government.  He also admitted that he had hired people to take care of tax obligation and did not follow up.

Even though Simmons’ defense team, emphasized in court filings the challenges that their client faced during his upbringing with an abusive mother and without a father in the household.  In imposing the sentence, Rakoff agreed with the government that Simmons’ case was a “brazen and blatant” example of tax evasion, but said he also considered Simmons’ hardscrabble background in his calculation, saying that the “sins of the parents are visited on the child.”

In a statement issued after the sentence, interim Southern District U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said “Simmons stole from the American taxpayers when he earned millions of dollars but failed to pay any taxes on his income.”  He further added that, “Today’s sentence shows that star power does not entitle people to a free pass.”

Every American has to pay taxes, and some celebrities have learned the hard way that they’re not above the law. Whether they deliberately falsified a tax return or inadvertently chose an inept tax advisor, Uncle Sam always finds out.  There have been plenty of celebrity cases such as  Martha Stewart, Wesley Snipes, and Willie Nelson who paid their due fine for tax evasion. Tax Evasion: Hard to get away with, even if you’re famous. To conclude, law is equal for everyone.

Certainly the celebrities criminal defense attorneys did a good job in presenting mitigating evidence which went a long way in getting the sentence reduced. A good criminal defense attorney can often persuade prosecutors and judges that even if a client is technically guilty there are mitigating factors that warrant a reduction in charges or a lighter sentence than what can technically be imposed under the law.

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