U.S. attorney disputes Snipes' fair trial claims


ORLANDO, Fla. -- Federal prosecutors said there is "no basis in reality" for Wesley Snipes' claims that he cannot get a fair trial on tax evasion charges because of racial prejudice in Ocala.

In recent court filings, Snipes' attorney called Ocala, where the January trial is set, "a hotbed of (Ku Klux Klan) activity," and alleged prosecutors chose it to get the best chance at an all-white jury.

"Defendant Snipes' motion hurls scurrilous and baseless accusations at the prosecution and citizenry of Ocala in an overwrought attempt to have this case dismissed or transferred to another venue," U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill wrote in a filing Monday.

An October 2006 federal indictment charges Snipes with fraudulently claiming refunds totaling almost $12 million in 1996 and 1997 for income taxes already paid. The 45-year-old star of the "Blade" trilogy and other films also was charged with failure to file returns from 1999 through 2004.

Snipes' motion sought to have the case dismissed or the trial moved to New York.

The alleged misconduct happened in Florida's Lake County. The case could be handled in either Orlando or the Marion County seat of Ocala, located about 80 miles north of Orlando, but prosecutors said Ocala is appropriate because more of Snipes' alleged crimes happened in that district.