Music

Lauryn Hill sentenced to three months in prison for tax evasion

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Via: Associated Press

Singer Lauryn Hill received a three-month prison sentence yesterday for failing to pay nearly one million dollars in back taxes and fines.

The singer’s attorney says his client paid her overdue taxes prior to the hearing on Monday, making a last minute payment of $900,000. But the payment came too late to change Hill’s fate. The presiding judge sentenced the former Fugee to three months behind bars, to be followed by a year of parole supervision — the first three months of which will see the singer confined to house arrest. Lastly, Hill will have to pay a $60,000 fine.

“I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them,” Hill said before U.S. Magistrate Madeline Cox Arleo, by way of rationalizing her actions. “I had an economic system imposed on me.”

Hill failed to pay taxes on her income from 2005 to 2007, and has struggled to resolve the situation with the IRS ever since, though her stalling career has made it difficult for the singer to settle with the government. Late last month, Hill signed a deal with Sony worth a reported $1 million for a five song EP, in a last-ditch attempt to keep the singer out of prison. However, those efforts ultimately failed to prevent the inevitability of jail time. That said, Hill actually received a much lighter sentence than she could have gotten, as the singer faced a maximum of one year in prison on the three separate charges for which she was brought to court.

In an emotionally-charged statement, Hill spoke out about fame, saying that her failure to pay taxes was the result of her decision to leave the music industry in order to protect herself and her children, as the singer had been the subject of considerable abuse behind-the-scenes.

“There were veiled threats, there was blacklisting,” she said, eliding specific details. “I was told, `That’s how it goes, it comes with the territory.’ I came to be perceived as a cash cow and not a person. When people capitalize on a persona, they forget there is a person in there.”

The statement is similar to one made last year by Hill, upon her initial arrest for tax evasion, as the singer lashed out at what she perceived as a music industry that fostered a “climate of hostility, false entitlement, manipulation, racial prejudice, sexism and ageism.”

In the statement, Hill wrote, “Over-commercialization and its resulting restrictions and limitations can be very damaging and distorting to the inherent nature of the individual.” She would go on to say, “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.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Moser wasn’t buying it, however. While Moser acknowledged Hill’s considerable talent as well as her work on behalf of impoverished children worldwide, she called Hill’s explanation for her actions “a parade of excuses centering around her feeling put upon” that fail to exempt her from her responsibilities. “She wasn’t interested in all those years in paying what she owed,” Moser told the judge.

Hill is to report to prison by July 8, though it’s not clear exactly where she’ll serve her sentence. Hill refused to comment after sentencing, instead allowing attorney Nathan Hochman to speak on her behalf.

“She is looking forward to putting her case behind her and getting back to her music and creating again,” said Hochman.

In accordance with her deal with Sony, Hill released one of the songs from her five-song EP online over the weekend. You can listen to the single, titled “Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix),” below.

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