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Wesley Snipes wants his tax evasion trial to take place in a Manhattan federal court where he claims a more racially-balanced jury can be picked, according to court papers filed in his case.
On Monday, Snipes moved to change venues, claiming the federal government manipulated the law to get the criminal case filed in U.S. District Court’s Ocala Division, located in the middle district of Florida.
“While racially diverse juries are not only commonplace, but are the norm, in Manhattan, this court routinely impanels all white southern juries for criminal cases,” the motion filed by Snipes’ attorney Robert Bernhoft states.
“While many Ocala jurors may be fair, substantial pockets of prejudice persist in the Ocala area,” the motion continues. “The Ocala area features statues commemorating the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, is a hotbed of Klan activity where the Klan adopted highways to commemorate the Klan, and the Confederate flag flies over government property.”
Snipes was indicted in October 2006 on eight courts of tax-related federal offenses. The actor has never lived in the Florida area and lists his tax domicile as the state of New York.
Filed with Snipes’ motion is a law survey commissioned by Bernhoft done by the Public Opinion Research Laboratory out of the University of North Florida, comparing racial bias between Ocala and New York residents.
Registered voters in Ocala and New York were called and asked a variety of questions, including whether the Confederate flag is a symbol of pride not prejudice and whether the burning of a cross on someone’s lawn is a federal crime.
According to the survey, there was a greater level of racial bias present in the 353 Ocala voters survey, compared to the 226 New York residents located in the federal court’s Southern District, where Snipes wants the trial moved.
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