Wesley Snipes has been sentenced to three years in prison after being found guilty of several tax offences.

The Blade star appeared in court in Ocala, Florida, in February, accused of failing to pay tax on $58 million (£29.1 million) of income from 1999 to 2004, in one of the most public tax cases in decades.

He was found not guilty of two serious felony charges of fraud and conspiracy, and three misdemeanour charges of failing to file tax returns or to pay taxes from 2002 to 2004, but guilty of failing to file returns or pay taxes from 1999 through 2001.

And despite pleas from his legal team for leniency, US district judge William Terrell Hodges has handed the 45-year-old actor the statutory maximum term of imprisonment called for by prosecutors.

Judge Hodges said Snipes had displayed a "history of contempt over a period of time" for tax legislation.

"In my mind these are serious crimes, albeit misdemeanours", he added.

Snipes legal team had provided letters in defence of the actor from the likes of Denzel Washington and Woody Harrelson, while in a statement prior to his sentencing he apologised for his actions and said he was "an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually-motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance".

His legal team is expected to appeal the sentencing.

25/04/2008 08:48:01