Wesley Snipes Alleges Racism, Seeks Trial Venue Change

AP, November 8, 2007

In a motion filed this week in U.S. District Court, Snipes’ lawyer Robert Bernhoft argued that the U.S. Attorney’s Office willfully selected the Marion County seat of Ocala as the site of the trial because prosecutors “deliberately chose the most racially discriminatory venue available to the government with the best possibility of an all-white southern jury where Snipes has never resided.”

Snipes’ motion filed Monday seeks to have the charges dismissed or moved to New York.

Snipes’ co-defendant Eddie Ray Kahn operated his Guiding Light of God Ministries, which prosecutors claim provided tax evasion information, from neighboring Lake County.

The motion describes the area as “a hotbed of Klan activity where the Klan adopted highways to commemorate the Klan and the Confederate flag flies over government property.”

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Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway dismissed the racism argument.

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Bernhoft hired the Public Opinion Research Laboratory of the University of North Florida to survey potential jurors.

The survey indicates “a greater level of racial bias in Ocala” than in the Southern District of New York, according to a report filed with the motion. Among other questions, the survey asked whether respondents saw the Confederate flag as a symbol of pride instead of prejudice. In Ocala, 63.2 percent of respondents answered yes, compared with 33 percent in the New York district.

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