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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Elizabeth Edwards Dies; Interview With Wesley Snipes
Aired December 7, 2010 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Tonight, breaking news -- the death of Elizabeth Edwards. The estranged wife of politician John Edwards endured scandal but succumbed today to cancer after a valiant six-year fight.
And then exclusive, Wesley Snipes in his only interview before he's due to report to prison. Just days away from being locked up, maybe for years. His last-minute appeal was denied. Now he's here. Is he sorry? Is he scared? Next on "LARRY KING LIVE."
Wesley Snipes in a little while. Sad night. We, like everyone, were very sad to learn of Elizabeth Edwards' death today. We send our sincere condolences to her family. She died at her home in Chapel Hill just a day after announcing on her Facebook page that further treatment for cancer would be unproductive.
Joining us with the latest from North Carolina is Amanda Lamb with WRAL TV in Raleigh. What do we know about her passing? Do we have an official cause of death and everything established, Amanda?
AMANDA LAMB, REPORTER, WRAL-TV: Well, Larry, we know it was late this afternoon. We also know that the cancer had gotten into her vital organs, her liver, and presumably that's what caused her death.
As you said, we found out yesterday that she was seriously ill. I don't think any of us realized it was going to be this quick that she would pass this quickly. She was hospitalized around Thanksgiving for about a week. We understand she came home late last week and was surrounded by her family and friends, including John Edwards, including her older daughter Kate. She also has two young children, Jack and Emma Claire and her brother and sister.
And throughout the weekend, we understand that a lot of family and friends came in and out to basically say goodbye to her. And we learned late this afternoon just a little after 4:30 that she had passed.
KING: She was quite popular in that community, was she not?
LAMB: She was. And I think on the national scene, the -- when you talked about Elizabeth Edwards you always talked about John Edwards. But locally she was a lot more than a politician's wife. Obviously she was an author. She was also a mother of four children, one child who passed away in 1996. She was a business owner. She owned a store here, a furniture store.
And so I think she was the sum of all those parts and people here will remember her for many things, including all those elements of her life.
KING: Any word on the funeral?
LAMB: We don't know right now specific funeral arrangements, although there's been talk that it will be at the church where their oldest son was laid to rest, again, back in 1996. And that's the church that they raised their children in here in Raleigh. And so we're expecting hopefully to get some information about those arrangements in the next day or so.
KING: Has anyone in the family made any appearance at all?
LAMB: At this point, they are being very private. The home is a large compound with a lot of acreage off the road in the Chapel Hill area. And so people have been gathering there basically throughout the last few days to say goodbye but, of course, today, now to bring their condolences to the family. And they are trying to be very private.
But of course there's a lot of people in the community that knew her. She touched a lot of people. She had a lot of friends. And so a lot of those folks are coming out and talking and saying nice things about her today and what their memories are of her.
KING: Thanks, Amanda. Amanda Lamb of WRAL, our CNN affiliate.
Elizabeth Edwards was a guest on this show a number of times. In June of 2010, she spoke about being diagnosed with cancer, her reaction to the news, and the effect on her children, especially poignant tonight. I believe this was the last interview Elizabeth Edwards did. Watch.
KING: Do the doctors tell you why you are still here?
ELIZABETH EDWARDS: No, and they don't tell me when they expect me to go. What I understand is it's not going to be -- so if I'm feeling good, that's a good sign. You don't like all of a sudden, fall off a cliff. It's a slow decline as the disease progresses.
EDWARDS: Probably. But I try really not to focus on what the send going to look like.
KING: You don't?
EDWARDS: The more time I spend doing that the less time I enjoy the days I have now.
KING: But how do you not think about it? KING: There are times when you do. I don't really think about it when I'm getting chemotherapy. I have -- the people who take care of me are wonderful, you know, terrific people. I made Jerome, who gives me my infusions bring me his high school yearbook. I promised to bring mine, which I did. Then he wasn't there last week because of a meeting, so I have to bring it again next week.
But, you know, they become friends of yours. When you go to visit them, it doesn't seem -- when you go to have scans, when you go to find out if the disease is progressing, those are the times when it's really hard not to let it get into your head.
KING: Is resilience something you learn you have when misfortune occurs?
EDWARDS: I think that's probably true of a lot of people who --
KING: And how do we know how we'll handle something until we have to handle it?
EDWARDS: You don't. I think most people, I don't think that I'm special in any way. I think most people do pull themselves together, do what it is that needs to be done. Sometimes you're thrown for a loop for a little while and then you start to reclaim. I think it's that getting back on the right path. That's the hard part. You know, you can't let yourself go down the chasm. You have to really get yourself back on the right path.
KING: Was the worst when they first told you, mentally?
EDWARDS: Mentally the worst was when -- when I very first heard. I just didn't know what to expect. I didn't know whether the information -- how bad the information I was getting was. I mean, how bad is it, not how bad the information is, but how had bad the cancer is.
I had a great oncologist, Lisa Kerry, who was telling me if you see a bone scan and lights don't look like a Christmas tree or like Larry King's backdrop, then you are in good shape. That means you've got contained locations. It's when it starts being really bright that you -- and so she gave me some landmarks to -- but still it was scary.
KING: You have had to deal in your life with loss -- the loss of a husband, but nothing compares in loss to the death of a child, though, a distant second?
EDWARDS: Right. And in some ways that helps you keep some balance about how important whatever pain you are going through now is. It really does give you some perspective on it. It doesn't mean it hurts less but it does -- you say, if I had to choose between one of these, what would I choose? This is a no-brainer.
KING: You write in your afterward, quote "Right now I want to live for eight more years to opinion finish the one job I know I did better than any other. That job is raising the kids." What if you don't get the eight years? EDWARDS: It will be sad for me and sad for them. I'd like to be -- I'd like for them to see me seeing them off into their new life. And one of the things about Wade having died when he was 16, eight years would mean that Jack was 18, but when Wade was 16 I could see the young man he was going to be. If I had died when he was 16, he would know that I saw the young man he was going to be. And I think that would give him some satisfaction.
And our relationship had changed a little as he aged to that point. I'd like to -- I'd like to get to that point with my older children, too, so as adults they would see me as still, you know, a presence in their life and not as that distant memory of the woman playing Legos with them on the floor, but somebody who was -- who, you know, was a real part of their lives.
KING: President Obama and the first lady were saddened to learn of Elizabeth Edwards' death. They said "In her life Elizabeth Edward knew tragedy and pain. Many others would have turned inward. Many others in the face of such adversity would have given up. But through all that she endured. Elizabeth revealed a fortitude and Grace that will long remain a source of inspiration. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and her friends."
We'll be back after this.
KING: President Bill Clinton had this to say about Elizabeth Edwards' death, "America's lost a symbol of strength, hope, and humanity, a tireless advocate for health care for all Americans, and a determined crusader for cancer cures."
Elizabeth Edward was on this show just six months ago speaking about her paperback version of "Resilience." In it she addressed the scandal that destroyed her marriage to John, and she told us why his role as a father to their children was more important than ever. Watch.
KING: Would you like to read -- we'll have you read two, but do one right now.
EDWARDS: OK. I wrote in this book, meaning earlier in the first chapters of this book about seeing your situation for what it is and taking action. "But I had not acted myself. Maybe it was that 30- year investment I had in my marriage. Maybe it was that I could not separate the flawed man before me from the boy with whom I fell in love in 1975.
It does not matter now. But finally, at the end of 2009, I realized I could not simply wish us to some halcyon final days. I decided that I do not want to be that person hoping for a day that may never come, that sad, bitter, unhappy person. Finally, I've take then steps I need to take to never be that person. It's one of the things I left behind when I closed that door behind John."
KING: you know when it happens, and we hope it doesn't happen, John is going to get hit awfully hard. You know he's going to take a brutal beating.
EDWARDS: Which, you know, he has to be responsible for himself. It just breaks my heart for my children, because one of the things that I really want is for them to have -- because they'll need it. They'll need to have a good relationship with their father.
And so it's -- that's enormously important to me. He's been a great father to them in a lot of ways. You know, in some ways has he failed them? Yes. But in so many ways he's been a spectacular father. And I want them to have that. So if he's getting beat up, it's going to be -- it's just going to make that more difficult.
KING: You put it in the subtitle "Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of facing Life's Adventures." Burdens are obvious.
KING: What are the gifts?
EDWARDS: The gifts are that, you know, you are reminded time and again. And the easiest example is with Wade's death because it's not so -- there's not so many other parts of it. When Wade died, it was terrible burden. But it also reminded you both of the fact that you need to grab hold of each day. You couldn't just take each day for granted. You had to make each day matter, make each interchange with people you cared about matter.
In my family, my dysfunctional family it was lots of, "I love yous," lots of hugs, lots of constant reminders that we cared about one another. And I think that was a gift Wade gave us. I think he, you know, he made us understand that it was really important.
Emma Claire when she was a baby had colic and cried for hours and hours. I could just rock her and sing to her for hours and hours even though she screamed back at me the whole time because I thought if this were Wade and I got to hold him but he was crying, would it be OK with me? You bet.
And you've got to understand that even if she's crying, it's a gift, this moment that I have. And so you can learn things from each thing that's bad, there's always something to be learned from it.
KING: What do you say to other cancer patients?
EDWARDS: That as long as you are walking around, as long as you aren't dead now, then you are alive.
KING: Look in a mirror.
EDWARDS: That's right.
KING: You're alive. EDWARDS: You're alive. Don't spend your time worrying about when you are going to die. Spend your time worrying about how you're going to live today.
KING: Senator John Kerry, who ran with John Edwards in 2004, released the following statement. It reads in part, "This is very sad news and the fact it isn't a surprise makes it so easier to hear. Elizabeth Edwards was an incredibly loving, giving, and devoted mother, and Teresa and our entire family are grateful for the time we shared getting to know her in 2004."
Next, Wesley Snipes. Don't go away.
KING: In February of 2008, a jury in Florida convicted Wesley Snipes of three misdemeanor counts of willfully failing to file federal tax returns in 1999, 2000 and 2001. The jury acquitted him of five other charges, including felony tax fraud and conspiracy.
In April of 2008, the judge imposed the maximum possible sentence, three years in prison. He's now been ordered to surrender to a federal prison in Pennsylvania by noon this Thursday, December 9th.
He joins us from New York. Wesley Snipes, the well-known actor, his credits include "Mo Better Blues," "Jungle Fever," the "Blade" trilogy and "White Men Can't Jump." Dan Meachum is Snipes' attorney. You had asked to surrender in January of next year. Why did you want the extra time, Wes?
WESLEY SNIPES, ACTOR: Well, we wanted the extra time, Larry, because I'm a father and I wanted to spend more time with my family and my children. You know, they deserve to have their father around. And we thought that it would be worthwhile considering or being a little bit more considerate to give me an opportunity to prepare, if I have to go in, and spend more time with my family. You know --
KING: And including Christmas, right?
Larry, one of the things I want to say right off the bat is that there have been some egregious and very malicious efforts to misreport the facts of this case. I just want to clear the air and I want to clear -- set the record straight for the sake of my family, the sake of my wife, the sake of the people who depend on me and trust me and have believed in me for so many years, the sake of the communities that I contribute to and the efforts and good will that I've been trying to put forth around the world. Larry --
KING: What are the mistakes?
SNIPES: Well, for a start, Larry, I was never charged with tax evasion. I have never been a pro -- tax protester. I never took a position of being a tax protester. And the press has continued to report that that's exactly what I was doing.
They've also reported that I was charged with tax evasion. These things are completely false, Larry.
KING: What were you convicted of?
SNIPES: I was convicted of three misdemeanors of willful failure to file a form.
KING: How is that different from evasion?
SNIPES: Well, I'm not the lawyer, Larry, so I think I'll let the lawyer explain that a little bit further.
DANIEL R. MEACHUM, WESLEY SNIPES' ATTORNEY: Tax evasion --
KING: Set the record straight. What's the difference between avoiding and evading?
MEACHUM: Tax evasion is a felony. And the felony of the conspiracy that he was charged with, or the felony of trying to defraud the government that he was charged with, tax -- willful failure to file a form is a misdemeanor.
In other words, Larry, I would venture to say as long as you've been alive that there are probably some friends of yours who did not file their tax return forms by April the 15th of each year. That's a misdemeanor if you don't and if you don't ask for an extension. That is, in fact, the crime that Mr. Snipes has been charged with, which is a misdemeanor.
In addition to that, felonies carry with them a longer sentence as relates to imprisonment than misdemeanors. The maximum imprisonment for a misdemeanor is 12 months. As Mr. Snipes told you earlier, the judge gave him the maximum of each of the misdemeanors for which he was charges, which was three, and that was 36 months.
KING: Wesley, as a famous actor, you must have accountants. And accountants file these reports automatically every year. So how did you miss filing for three years in a row? How did that happen?
SNIPES: This is one of the things that's also been misreported, Larry. It's been presented and it's been put in a context and framed as though I was a co-conspirator, that at one point I was the architect of a scheme that was promoted by an organization who were -- who were characterized as tax protesters.
The press has not reported the fact that continually I have been a client represented by people whom I trusted. People whom I thought had the knowledge and expertise in the areas of finance and tax law that would protect my interest. This has been part of the misconception that has been perpetuated throughout the media and around the world.
KING: So these people failed to do that? They failed to file on your behalf?
SNIPES: I would say that I relied on the advice of those who I considered professionals. And if you look at some of the people who also relied on the professionals that I had representing me, they also have been subject to fraud and loss and suffered as a result of the misappropriation of funds as a result of the breach of the fiduciary responsibility that these professionals --
KING: I believe someone is in jail because of that, right?
SNIPES: Well, yes. Ken Starr, who was brought in as one of the star witnesses, no pun intended, for witnesses for the prosecution against me, actually used to be my financial adviser back in the '90s.
KING: But you did know, Wesley, that's you have to every year sign a tax form. The accountant can't sign it for you. You know that you have to sign that, right? You did know that?
MEACHUM: No, Larry, what in fact happened is that Mr. Snipes, when he left Mr. Starr after he found out that Mr. Starr had forged his signature on some documents and was represented by a new organization that also had 4,000 clients of which some were IRS employees, doctors, lawyers, and dentists, they were representing Mr. Snipes as both accountants and lawyers and actually had various communications back and forth between the IRS and themselves on what is the categorization by which Mr. Snipes should file his returns.
Now this, obviously, has never been reported. But it's never been a situation where Mr. Snipes al of a sudden decided I don't have to file a form. And, in fact, these people that had also told them that he was entitled to a major refund. And -- but our point was to try the case in court and not in the media. And so we wanted to be respectful of that --
KING: I got that. But, Dan, can -- could these people legally sign for him? Did they have power of attorney to sign the tax return?
MEACHUM: They had power of attorney for him, yes. That was, in fact, the case.
KING: So how is he convicted?
MEACHUM: Well --
SNIPES: This is one of the questions we've been trying to figure out, Larry.
KING: Well, if you presented to the jury evidence that someone with power of attorney signed tax returns, how could he be convicted of not filing a tax return?
MEACHUM: Well, in fact, Larry, at least we have information to suggest that many of the jurors didn't, in fact, think that Mr. Snipes was guilty of anything, and that several did before the trial started.
So, therefore, as a compromise, them thinking that the judge would never, ever sentence Mr. Snipes to any jail time for a misdemeanor, that was the compromising verdict.
KING: We'll be right back with more of Wesley Snipes and his attorney Daniel Meachum. He will have to sign into federal prison on Thursday. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Frank -- with Wesley Snipes and Dan Meachum. We've received a statement from Franks Tuttle. Franks served on the jury that convicted Wesley Snipes in 2008. After the trial, he contacted Mr. Snipes' defense team.
At their suggestion, we reached out to him, and he provided us with a statement that says in part, "There was one juror that had said they knew Mr. Snipes was guilty when they first saw him during jury selection. I told the juror that was not right and it went against what the judge had said to us before the trial was to begin.
Two other jurors then agreed and said that they thought he was guilty when they first saw him before the trial began. We were deadlocked on our decision about Mr. Snipes before this happened. I was not expecting to hear that from a juror and most of the jurors felt the same.
That's when a deal was made to find him, Mr. Snipes, guilty on the failure to file taxes and not guilty on the federal tax evasion charges. We did not think he would go to jail."
Wes, are you surprised that the judge did not consider that?
SNIPES: Very much so, Larry, very much so. I was surprised that not only did he not consider it, he wouldn't consider even interviewing the juror even though he made himself available to be interviewed, whether it was with the defense counsel or whether it was with the judge in his own private chambers.
KING: So you think you've been singled out here? You think you've been singled out?
SNIPES: I'll put it this way, Larry. It does seem to be rather unusual and rather bizarre when you had a prosecutor come into the sentencing and make the statement that this was the biggest tax trial in the history of the IRS. He also made the statement that judge and a plea to the judge, asking him not to offer community service because Mr. Snipes has too many fans. They would be emboldened. They think that he's beat us, and they think that he's won.
So if you take these things into consideration, Larry, and the way it's been misrepresented around the world, I think there's a certain amount of selectivity going on here.
MEACHUM: Larry, let me just make one point of clarification. We, meaning the defense team, never suggested that the media reach out to any of the jurors. In fact, we have gone beyond our duty to make sure that the identity of the jurors was never told by us. Now, obviously, your people are pretty good investigators and found out who this juror was. But we have made it abundantly clear that we have tried in every effort, even from blanking his name out and phone number, to not make his identity known. But we do appreciate --
KING: All right, Dan.
MEACHUM: -- we appreciate the fact --
KING: I guess we found him.
MEACHUM: I guess you did, Larry.
KING: Can you tell us, Dan, in simple terms, why is your client going to jail Thursday?
MEACHUM: My client is going to jail because the jury --
SNIPES: Let me just say, we still have prayers out there, Larry, and we still believe in miracles. So don't send me up the river just yet. All right?
KING: OK. Why will he probably go to jail on Thursday?
MEACHUM: If that should happen, Larry, the reason is that the judge imposed the maximum of the misdemeanors for which the jury found him guilty of, which was the willful failure to file tax returns on three different counts. That's, I mean, as simple as it can be.
KING: Is there any last chance here of any reprieve?
MEACHUM: You know, Larry, I never give up. And we have not turned our heads to turning Mr. Snipe into the facility. We have made some end roads to try to make sure that there is some possibilities of reprieve. And so we will fight and do that until the very last minute.
SNIPES: You know, Larry, it's very, very interesting. It's been presented as though I am worthy of this kind of punishment. It's been presented as though he's getting his just do. Larry, I've been a law- abiding citizen ever since I grew up in the Bronx, New York. I think that all of us, as Americans, are due due process and have a right to a fair trial, and have a right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.
I think that is the American way and it's the foundation upon which this country was built. Why --
KING: But you did lose in trial and you did lose your appeals. So that's the American system, too. It seems weird here, the way you presented it, and the way based on what that juror said. Why did the juror -- why did that juror find you guilty?
MEACHUM: -- based on your statement that you said, said it was a compromise and thought that the judge would never, ever possibly send him to prison. But, Larry, let me -- let me say this to you because the judicial system is where I live, and that's what I do.
KING: I know.
MEACHUM: In March of 2008, there was a billionaire by the name of Olikov (ph) who plead guilty to tax evasion, a felony. He paid 54 million dollars in back taxes, brought all of his money back from out of the country and was given probation, Larry, for six months. Now the problem with that is the inconsistency of the punishment. I would think that you would agree.
On the one hand, a person pleads guilty to a felony, owes 54 million dollars in back taxes, agrees to bring his money back to the state and he's given some months of probation. My client is found guilty of a misdemeanor and given 36 months.
KING: Wes, did you owe -- did you owe the government any money, Wes?
SNIPES: Well, they claimed that there was a certain number that was owed and that number has slid all over the place. And the press has escalated it and changed it a number of times. But we think that we are fully compliant with whatever was owed for the years in question.
KING: So you paid -- in your opinion, you've paid what you think was owed?
SNIPES: Oh, yes, Larry. Not only did I pay, but my position was that I would always pay.
KING: And we'll be back with more of Wesley Snipes and Dan Meachum. Don't go away.
KING: We are with Wes Snipes, Wesley Snipes, exclusive tonight with his attorney Dan Meachum. In a couple of minutes, Judge Joe Brown, who was a character witness at his sentencing, will appear with us here in studio. Dan, you mentioned, what is open to you other than a pardon or a commutation?
MEACHUM: You know, Larry, what we have done is we are planning on filing a cert before the Supreme Court on the original appeal on venue, because we think that that is an issue that the Supreme Court would want to hear. But in addition to that, we have appealed the judge's denial of a new trial and to interview the juror.
But that brings up a very good point, Larry, that I want to make to you. In any criminal case, there are elements that has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal case. And intent to willfully not file returns was one of the elements that was -- that was necessary for that charge. And the person that they used to supply the testimony for that element was Ken Starr.
Now Ken Starr, as you know, is now awaiting sentencing this month. In fact, he may have already been sentenced. But Ken Starr was referred to as a mini Madoff. Ken Starr is a very accountant, tax lawyer that Mr. Snipes had an issue with and decided to find another source to file and review his taxes.
Now that's very, very important, Larry, because we found all of those things about Ken Starr's enterprising criminal activity after the trial was over. So that was one of the things that we wanted the judge to at least consider.
It wasn't a fishing expedition. He was -- there was a criminal complaint filed against Mr. Starr. There was an SEC complaint filed against Mr. Starr. And about three weeks later, Larry, there's an indictment. This man stole between 20 million and 80 million dollars from people. In fact, he stole 7.5 million dollars from a 91-year-old widower in New York and went --
KING: He also stole from Al Pacino and many others. Ken Starr is not the Ken Starr of the Clinton -- hold on. Let me clarify. The Ken Starr he's referring to is not the Ken Starr who is now out at Pepperdine College here in Los Angeles, and not the guy involved in --
MEACHUM: No, we're not referring to the special prosecutor Ken Starr.
KING: That Ken Starr is not this Ken Starr. Wes, before we bring in Judge Brown, if these certs fail and these last-minute appeals fail, are you nervous?
SNIPES: I think any man would be nervous if his liberty is at stake, Larry. Given the length of time that they are suggesting that I be away from my family, away from my profession, away from my ability to provide for my family and for those who have depended upon me to contribute to society, the good will through the works that we do and the productions that we have -- I think anyone would be nervous about that.
But right now, Larry, I'm more upset and disappointed that the system seems to not be working for me in this situation. And I --
KING: We'll be back with -- hold on. We'll be right back with Wesley Snipes, Dan Meachum. We'll be joined by Judge Joe Brown. Don't go away.
KING: We're back. And, by the way, you are looking live right now at the Mckeyan (ph) Federal Prison in Pennsylvania. That's where Wesley Snipes has been reported to report this Thursday. He's been sentenced to three years, convicted of failing to file federal income tax forms.
Judge Joe Brown was a character reference for Wesley Snipes during the sentencing phase of the case. He joins us to discuss it. What's your thought on this?
JUDGE JOE BROWN, TV JUDGE: Well, first off, I am somewhat appalled at what I think is selective prosecution. Let's get to some of the facts nobody has brought out here. Over the last decade, it seems like Mr. Snipes has paid a bit over 30 million dollars in income tax. When you are talking about failure to file the tax return versus evasion, one simply not filing the return even though your taxes may have actually been paid -- failing to pay taxes is not paying the taxes --
KING: He still has to file.
BROWN: Yes, he still has to file but he may have paid. So what you usually get as a practical matter, sir, is that people on the low end who have W-2 deductions from their paychecks and the money sent in, they don't file. They don't get the refund. I guess the government gets to keep their money longer.
KING: What's your point here.
BROWN: The point is here, when you get somebody on his end, he makes a lot of money. And he's got people filing returns, and there are a lot of papers you get. You sign stuff you may not be aware of the fact that that particular 1040 has not been filed on your behalf, but you paid your taxes. He's paid 30 million, at least, in taxes over the last decade.
KING: Why did this judge give him three years?
BROWN: I don't understand that. We have a disparate sentencing here. He walked in to a courtroom on the day of his sentencing with a certified bank check for 6.5 million dollars that he attempted to present to the U.S. attorneys in the case. They refused to accept it. The judge was a little set out about that.
But it turns out, first off, his total liability was proved at trial was 240,000 dollars. And that wasn't failure to pay taxes. It was just the inappropriate forms had been filed. The other thing that's important about this case is Ken Starr, who was, as you say, not the one that's a professor here in town and with the Clinton administration, but another, had been turned in by Mr. Snipes some years ago. He blew the whistle on him.
And the firm that wound up as co-defendants with Mr. Snipes -- Mr. Snipes had divested himself of any connection with them. Now this is what bothers me: they indicted this whole core that ran this tax firm. They had 4,200-some clients. They indicted one client, Wesley Snipes, who had never been anywhere near that area.
KING: So why were they after him?
BROWN: Because it's gamesmanship. Quite frankly, in the legal profession, particularly in the criminal aspect, people brag about what's on the wall in their trophy rooms.
KING: And Wes was a trophy?
BROWN: Wes was a trophy.
KING: We'll be right back with more right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: We're back. The Trevor Project, a non-profit group that runs a suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth, held a major event Sunday. Performances include Katy Perry and Queen Latifah. Jane Lynch presented Kathy Griffin with their life award. Our King Cam was on the red carpet and you can see it at CNN.com.
KING: Wesley Snipes is with us. So is his attorney, Dan Meachum. So is Judge Joe Brown. We have a call from Naples, Florida. Hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry. Congratulations on all your achievements.
KING: Thank you. What's the question?
CALLER: Wesley, I'm wondering, if you do have to go to prison -- and I wish you the best of luck -- but if you do have to --
SNIPES: Keep praying for us, brother.
CALLER: Will you go in there and try to make a difference with your celebrity and your talent? Or will you just want to go in and kind of get the three years done and out of the way?
SNIPES: Well, I'm an artist to the core. And my objective has always been to use my talents and my skills to elevate humanity through my art. I don't see that changing whether I'm out or whether I'm in. And I'm still going to try to fight for justice.
KING: Los Angeles. You're next. Go ahead.
CALLER: Mr. King, thank you so much for having me on. Mr. Snipes, first of all, huge fan. So sorry you're in this situation and I wish you and your family the best.
SNIPES: Keep praying for us, brother. Keep praying.
CALLER: Definitely. Mr. Meachum, I just want to qualify this first saying the late Aaron Russo (ph) -- he was producer of films such as "The Rose" and others -- set out to see if there was a law requiring people to file an income tax. And Mr. Meachum, I'm wondering, do you know the law or the statute that requires an average working class citizen to file taxes or to pay a portion of their direct tax known as the federal income tax?
KING: Do you know that, Dan?
MEACHUM: I think section 61 of the IRS Code basically says that income is from whatever source derives, and therefore you should pay taxes on it. And let me -- to the jurors question -- I mean to the caller's question, let me say it this way: Mr. Snipes never challenged whether or not your question is in fact one that needed to be decided.
KING: He was not a tax --
MEACHUM: He was not a tax protester.
SNIPES: These were all allegations and claims made through the media and the press. You know, it was -- Larry, what was very interesting is that when you played the list of movies that I've been in, you know, if you know anything about being cast in a film with some of the major stars that I was blessed to be working with, you have to go through a certain vetting. You have to go through a certain approval.
And your character is a part of that judgment. It's a part of that vetting. It's very interesting to me that I haven't been given the benefit of the doubt, and the media has spun this and put this in a context where he is -- it's almost as if they -- it's almost as if they thought I really was Minnow Brown (ph) instead of Wesley Snipes.
KING: Let me get a break and come back with our remaining moments right after this.
KING: We're back in our remaining moments, just all too few of them, with Wes Snipes, his attorney Dan Meachum and Judge Joe Brown. Others have been convicted of this and didn't do time.
BROWN: That's right. It's totally disproportionate. He's going to wind up getting more time out of this than major felons have for many millions of dollars of unpaid taxes and outright evasion, which it's just not called for because he does so much good out. We've got sitting back in the green room some top tier, shall we say, operatives who came back from Afghanistan just to show moral support, because they think he's a good guy and he boosts the troops' morale, like John Wayne or Bob Hope or entertainers that said I'm about the American way.
This man has not tried to evade anybody's taxes. And he got caught in a bad situation.
KING: Wes, why didn't you come out? You said that the media treated you harshly. And why didn't you come out before this?
SNIPES: Two reasons, Larry. One, my mother told me, if you don't have anything good to say about anybody, then say nothing at all. And thou shalt not bear false witness upon another person. The second reason was that I was under the belief that the system would work and would treat me fairly.
I had faith in the system. I had faith in the concept and the theory that all Americans are endowed with the right to a fair trial and I would be fairly judged and fairly tried.
KING: So --
SNIPES: From my orientation, it doesn't appear as though that's the case. (CROSS TALK)
KING: Dan, was that a mistake? Should he have come out and talked before?
MEACHUM: No. I think that Wesley did exactly what Wesley should have done. I mean, we wanted to show respect to the court. And we wanted the process to take place. And --
KING: Yeah, but you let the press have a field day, right?
MEACHUM: The press is going to have a field day either way. You can't control that.
SNIPES: The question is, why did the press have a field day? Why was it disproportionate in telling the negative side?
SNIPES: This is a good question. I think we're now in a climate where we have profiteers off suffering, and we've lost the community of the courageous. There is an agenda that is set by whom or a particular body that benefits from villainizing certain people, especially if they come from a particular community. And had I said --
KING: You mean there's a racial tone here?
BROWN: There's some other stuff. For risk of playing the race card -- I think Mr. Snipes hasn't brought it out. But there were African-American prospective jurors, but strangely enough every one of them got given a wrong day to come back by the same prosecutor that wound up giving the rest of them the correct date.
Also, this is the only county in the United States of America with a freestanding Ku Klux Klan paraphernalia store, which is a strange phenomenon. So the point is -- is what example are they going to show by treating him so harshly?
KING: We're out of time. Wes, the best of luck. We hope we can get more on this matter and bring it to some fair conclusions.
SNIPES: Please, please ask the questions. Keep your prayers out there to my family. I love you. To my fans, thank you for your support. We'll continue to fight.
KING: Wesley Snipes.
KING: Wesley Snipes, Dan Meachum and Judge Joe Brown. Angelina Jolie and Celene Dion both tomorrow night. Now, Anderson Cooper and "AC 360."