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Lauryn Hill Sentenced To Prison For Failing To File Tax Returns

Former Fugee, a South Orange resident, didn't file returns for five years

NORTH JERSEY -- Singer Lauryn Hill was sentenced to three months in prison Monday for not paying taxes on more than $2.3 million in earnings over a five year period.

The eight-time Grammy winner faced up to three years in federal prison after after pleaded guilty in federal court in June 2012 to failing to file tax returns. The South Orange resident must also serve three months of home confinement.

During a three hour proceeding before Federal Magistrate Madeline Cox Arleo, Hill’s attorney Nathan Hochman argued that the former Fugee should receive probation with no period of incarceration or, at worst, home confinement.

Hill told the court that the burdens of fame complicated her efforts to earn money and that she had been thrust into a industry at a young age not fully understanding the consequences. Describing herself as “the child of former slaves,” Hill said she was forced to choose between her artistic integrity and the commercial demand to put out more hit music.

“I was ushered into a system I didn’t really understand the nature of, its violence, its need to squeeze every dime from a talent such as myself,” Hill said. “This industry creates an illusion of wealth and success that takes a toll on an individual.”

Hochman, in arguing for a “downward departure” from the sentencing guidelines, said Hill merely failed to pay taxes and did not submit a fraudulent return or attempt to conceal assets.

Hochman cited other high-profile defendants, such as singer Willie Nelson and actor Nicholas Cage, who did not serve jail time in tax cases. Hill has repaid all $900,000 in taxes she owed, Hochman said.

Hochman also cited Hill’s charitable work and her family obligations as a single mother of six in arguing for a reduced sentence.

“As the court is aware Ms. Hill is the primary caregiver of six children between the ages of 15 years and 21 months,” Hochman said.

Hill told the court that the period when she failed to file tax returns was a time when she was intentionally pulling back from the limelight for the sake of her family in order to live “underground.”

The government, represented by Assistant US Attorney Sandra Moser, countered that Hill always had ample funds to pay the taxes that she owed and that she had done almost no charitable work for years until her recent troubles with the IRS.

Moser also said that Hill had the resources to care for her large family if she were imprisoned, including support payments of $15,000 a month provided by Rohan Marley, the father of several of the of the children. Marley is the son of reggae legend Bob Marley.

“The defendant does not deserve a get-out-of-jail card for deigning to pay what she owes,” Moser said.   

Arleo rejected Hill’s request for no jail time, citing precedent and also expressing skepticism regarding Hill’s claim that her failure to file tax returns somehow stemmed from her self-imposed isolation from public life.

“[Paying taxes] can be done quietly and underground,” Arleo said.

But Arleo also noted that Hill had made restitution, had no prior criminal history and that her family obligations were still significant enough to warrant a much lighter sentence than the maximum allowed under guidelines.

Hill’s sentence is to begin by July 8. Arleo agreed to pass on a request from Hochman that Hill serve her time in a facility near her family.  

Hill released a new song, "Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix)" on Friday.

Joe Williams-Nelson May 12, 2013 at 11:42 AM
I agree 100% or should I say 40% cause that is my tax bracket.
Joe Williams-Nelson May 12, 2013 at 11:49 AM
I have a problem with it. But I am just a black girl from the West Side of Chicago who happens to be a republican, descendant from slaves, slave owners, and Native American and I just happen to be rich, very rich. But make no mistake about it poverty brings with it its own taxation, trust me I know. I would never go back to being poor just to avoid my tax burden. Lauryn Hill is as American as it gets she is entitled and that is where her doctrine comes from. When people start thinking they are special whether they are celebrities or not it will most likely lead to entitlement issues.
Joe Williams-Nelson May 12, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Listen 1 percent o the world has tons of money for a reason. The other 99% are about as "special" as Lauryn Hill. When I had my coffee shop it took four employees to replace me if I did not come to work. I pay 40% to federal taxes, give 10% to charity, volunteer myself which is just glamorized slavery (free labor is still what runs this nation), I raised my mother's kids at the expense of my own childhood, raised my own four kids and homeschooled them. I pay property taxes in three school districts where I send no children to, I am self pay with regard to any medical bills but I provide insurance for my employees as well as a decent living wage. I support my parents and one grandparent who will be 100 this year (go grandma it's your birthday). I think there should be a flat tax rate but I will never complain about paying taxes. Because when there is a flat rate people will still complain and avoid it. The sheep of this country are the people who I pay taxes to live apart from. It is the truth and you know it. The gap in income levels needs to be there just so people like me who do more than my share can go on a damn vacation occasionally.
Joe Williams-Nelson May 12, 2013 at 12:06 PM
I agree. Except I do not mind the debate of it all. But good points. On another note. She may have asked for the jail time to boost her image. No one has talked about her in a minute and now concert promoters are going to be all over her for a tour, or a Fugees reunion, or an appearance at the next music awards show which only lines her pockets with more taxable income.
Joe Williams-Nelson May 12, 2013 at 12:08 PM
Good times people; on to the next topic...

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