Film star Wesley Snipes (One Night Stand, Blade) is scheduled for release from federal prison on July 19, 2013, 31 months after being incarcerated for failure to file his income-tax returns.
During his trial several other charges against him were dismissed including attempts to use the 861 argument, a claim that section 861 of the tax code exempts certain activities from the income tax and that is used unsuccessfully by tax protestors to avoid paying income taxes, as well as fraudulent attempts to obtain income-tax refunds from the IRS — Snipes referred to himself as “a non-resident alien” despite the fact that he is a U.S.-born citizen.
These are some of the tools the “sovereign citizen movement” (SCM) teaches in its quest to free members from various onerous and perceived unconstitutional laws and to declare themselves independent of the government. They take the position that they are “answerable only to common law" and therefore are not subject to any statutes at the federal, state, or municipal levels. They do not officially recognize U.S. currency and declare themselves to be “free of any legal constraints.” One of those restraints is the obligation to pay income taxes, which they consider to be illegitimate, hence the failed “861 argument” in the Snipes case.
A few of the estimated 100,000-300,000 “members” occasionally go off the deep end and when confronted with reality, use threats of force and even violence in defense of their beliefs. According to the Los Angeles Times, Shawn Rice was a “sovereign citizen” who, upon being served a warrant for money-laundering, strapped on a bulletproof vest, armed himself, and then barricaded himself in his home in Seligman, Arizona. He was arrested after a 10-hour standoff and now is awaiting trial.
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Photo of Wesley Snipes: AP Images