Snipes admits that these refund requests may have been a bit aggressive (they allegedly hinge on a discredited tax-protester gambit called the ''861 argument,'' which claims that the domestic income of U.S. citizens is not taxable). But he argues that if the IRS had a problem with the claims, then it was obligated to meet with him if he so desired. He says that he made that request, but the government indicted him instead of granting him the meeting. When contacted to respond for this story, the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment, saying only, ''We will do our talking in the courtroom.''
In the meantime, Snipes remains baffled by the charges, especially since he claims he was never paid the refunds in the first place. ''I never got a dime,'' he insists. ''I didn't defraud the government by taking money that was not mine. We never got it!'' Snipes says that the reason the IRS is targeting him has nothing to do with money at all, but rather his fame that his arrest would be a high-profile trophy to deter others from claiming similar refunds. ''Oh, it ain't about the money,'' he says. ''What is the benefit of making such pomp and circumstance about this case? The amazing revelation in all of this is, I never thought I was that important.''
Both Rosile and Kahn have pleaded not guilty. When reached for comment, Rosile's lawyer would say only, ''My client has never met Mr. Snipes.'' According to the indictment, Rosile's CPA licenses in Ohio and Florida had been revoked; he is currently free on bail. Kahn, meanwhile, is in federal custody awaiting trial and could not be reached for comment. Still, if Snipes' strategy next month in court is to blame his advisers, then it raises a question not a legal one, perhaps, but a commonsense one: Didn't he think that his accountants' promises of multimillion-dollar refunds were too good to be true?
Snipes laughs at this suggestion. ''Hell yeah, it sounded too good to be true!''
While it would be nice to say that Snipes' problems end there, they do not. In fact, they're just one layer of his misery.
Wesley Snipes was a small child. So small that his mother thought her oldest of eight might not grow at all that he might be a dwarf. Because of his small size throughout junior high school in the South Bronx, Snipes was routinely beaten up. He remembers his family as being ''broke as a joke,'' but his mother, a dancer and community activist, scraped together the money to send him to a local YMCA to take karate lessons. Thirty-five years later, the classically trained actor holds a fifth-degree black belt in karate, a third-degree black belt in tae kwon do, and teaching sashes in kung fu and Brazilian capoeira. His wife, Nakyung, with whom he has four children, also holds a black belt in karate.
During Snipes' brilliant box office run in the '90s, he seemed like an actor afraid of being pinned down. He played the romantic lead in 1991's Jungle Fever, the motormouthed con artist in 1992's White Men Can't Jump, and even a woman named Noxeema Jackson trapped inside a man's body in 1995's To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. But Snipes never strayed too far from martial arts. When he landed the action-hero role in Blade, he seemed to have found the part that would vault him to Hollywood's most rarefied level.
In 1998, the first installment of the Blade saga grossed $70 million for New Line. Four years later, Blade II pulled in $82 million. That trajectory should have made the third chapter, 2004's Blade: Trinity, an even bigger hit. Snipes' agents negotiated a $13 million payday for the actor his highest salary ever. But the movie, which should have been the climax of his 25-year career, instead ended in a lawsuit.
NEXT PAGE: On Trinity: ''Systematic racism was used to divert focus away from the real issues of an incompetent director and inexperienced producers with a $60 million budget, and onto the 'insubordinate, difficult, self-immersed actor.'''