Wesley Snipes, who was arrested Friday morning and pleaded not guilty
to tax fraud charges, faced the media that afternoon at the Orlando International Airport.
"I want to thank all my fans," a smiling Snipes, dressed in a dark suit, blue shirt and tie and sunglasses, said at the press conference. "I want to thank my family who stand behind me. And to my foes, thank you, too. I am not guilty, and I look forward to clearing my name. I want the truth to come out." (See the video from CNN.
Snipes said the case against him doesn't change his feelings about America. "I'm proud to be an American. I'm proud to be an African American in America. I've had some interesting experiences: some great, some not so great, but I love it here."
After the press conference, Snipes was ushered to a private plane that would take him to Namibia, where he had been filming the movie Gallowwalker
and teaching filmmaking to locals.
Earlier on Friday, Snipes was freed on $1 million bond and given permission to go back to Namibia until Jan. 10. When he returns to the United States, he will surrender his passport. On Feb. 22, there will be a status hearing in Ocala, Fla., where he appeared in federal court Friday. A trial has been tentatively set for March 5.
According to his spokesman, Snipes had spent about 65 hours in planes over the past few days. He flew from a remote part of Namibia to the main airport, and then from Namibia to Nassau, Bahamas. From Nassau, he flew to Orlando, and then to Ocala. He was to return to Namibia via the same route.
The trip was the result of negotiations between prosecutors and Snipes's legal team. According to Snipes's attorneys, they worked with the government to determine when he should return to the states. "He was never a fugitive from justice," said one of the lawyers, Donald Bierman. "He has cooperated with the investigation and always planned to take care of this."
"Mr. Snipes has been the victim of unscrupulous tax advisors," said another attorney, Billy Martin. "We look forward to his vindication when the facts come out. He has entered a plea of not guilty, and looks forward to proving his innocence in court. We will prove this in court, and not in the court of public opinion."