The eight-time Grammy Award winner and former The Fugees member Lauryn Hill 37, had to plead guilty to tax evasions in the U.S. District Court in Newwark, New Jersey yesterday.
Hill had to admit defeat to the Federal prosecutors in court, by admitting that she failed to file tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service in the US between the period of 2005 – 2007, during which time she reportedly earned $1.8m from recording and film royalties. She admitted that she had not paid taxes on approximately $818,000 earned in 2005, including a further $222,000 in 2006 and $761,000 in 2007. It was also reported that her earnings derived from four corporations she owned.
Mainstream US newspapers have reported that Hill could face a ‘maximum one-year sentence on each of the three counts, on which she was charged three weeks ago’, and a hefty $75,000 in fines.
At the court hearing Hill was asked by the judge if she had ‘intentionally and willingly’ failed to file the tax returns, to which she replied, ‘Yes.’ Her attorney Nathan Hochman stated that Hill had planned to pay back all the taxes she owed.
The singer was released on a $150,000 bail and the U.S. Magistrate, Michael Shipp, who had previously scheduled Hill’s sentencing for early October, later agreed to delay the sentencing till late November, to allow Hill to make repayments.
The soulful singer who has shunned the limelight in recent years, preferring to focus on raising her six children, five of whom she had with Legend Bob Marley’s son – Rohan Marley – Took to her Tumblr earlier this month to respond to the charges, stating that her abstinence from the mainstream media that aided the birth of her stardom was her personal protest against, the ‘climate of hostility, false entitlement, manipulation, racial prejudice, sexism and ageism.’ Hill went on to state that:
“Over-commercialization and its resulting restrictions and limitations can be very damaging and distorting to the inherent nature of the individual.’I did not deliberately abandon my fans, nor did I deliberately abandon any responsibilities, but I did however put my safety, health and freedom and the freedom, safety and health of my family first over all other material concerns. I also embraced my right to resist a system intentionally opposing my right to whole and integral survival.’
What is quite significant is that Hill also claimed via Tumblr that she had explained herself to authorities when questioned about her failure to pay taxes. Her lawyer, Hockman, accused the government of, “targeting her since she’s a celebrity” , as opposed to punishing her for what could be perceived as her error of judgement, which led to her failing to pay taxes on time. Hockman continued, “There are many people in society who fail to file their taxes on time who only face civil liability. They chose Ms. Hill in particular because of who she was.”
At the hearing Hill also took great issue with two statements made by U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp, which she reportedly discussed in whispers and in great length with her attorney Hockman. District Judge Shipp had asked Hill if anyone had forced her to plead guilty either ‘directly or indirectly’, which troubled her to the extent that she carefully discussed her concerns with Hockman and through him asked Judge Shipp to clarify what he meant by the words “directly” and “directed.” Hill responded to Judge Shipp by stating, ‘‘Indirectly, I’ve been advised my ability to speak out directly is for another time, at sentencing.’’ Hills attorney, Hockman went on to state that, “Ms. Hill is very particular about language. “Language is very important to Ms. Hill.” Furthermore, Hill understandably became increasingly concerned when Judge Shipp ‘ordered’ her to undergo mental health counseling as directed by pre-trial intervention services.
Following the hearing, Hill declined to comment but suggested that she might take to Tumblr again to comment on her sentencing. Let’s hope the fine is all she has to pay.
Check out Lauryn’s full statement via Tumblr here: Ms. Lauryn Hill Tumblr