Every now and then, some celebrity gets caught breaking the law and counts on his or her fame in getting off the hook, no matter how lame an excuse that's given. That was the case with Grammy Award-winning hip hop singer Lauryn Hill, who in federal court on Monday compared her experience in the music business to the slavery her ancestors endured.
Nevertheless, U.S. Magistrate Madeline Cox Arleo sentenced the liberal performer -- who pleaded guilty to the tax evasion charge last year -- to three months in prison for not paying $1 million in taxes over the past decade, as well as a $60,000 fine.
"I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them," the 37-year-old performer from South Orange, N.J., stated while occasionally pounding her fist on the podium. "I had an economic system imposed on me."
That “system” didn't seem to treat her poorly when the singer earned more than $1.8 million from 2005 to 2007, in addition to unpaid state and federal taxes in 2008 and 2009, which brought the total of earnings to approximately $2.3 million.
At the time of her arrest on June 29, 2012, Hill wrote a criticism regarding the pop culture's “climate of hostility, false entitlement, manipulation, racial prejudice, sexism and ageism.”
Despite having paid more than $900,000 during the past several days, Hill still owes interest and penalties on her unpaid taxes, the U.S. attorney's office said. After she is released from prison, she will be on parole for a year, the first three months of which will be spent in home confinement.
Hill, who started singing with the Fugees as a teenager in the 1990s before releasing her popular 1998 album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” stated that she failed to pay taxes during a period when she'd dropped out of the music business to protect herself and her six children.
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!
The musician had faced a maximum sentence of one year each on three counts of failing to file taxes. Her attorney had sought probation, claiming that Hill's charitable works, her family circumstances and the fact she paid back the taxes she owed should merit consideration.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Moser acknowledged Hill's creative talent and work on behalf of impoverished children but called Hill's explanation for her actions "a parade of excuses centering around her feeling put upon" that don't exempt her from her responsibilities.
Hill recently posted this message on the Tumblr website regarding her situation:
I’ve remained silent, after an extensive healing process. This has been a 10+ year battle, for a long time played out behind closed doors, but now in front of the public eye.
I’ve been fighting for existential and economic freedom, which means the freedom to create and live without someone threatening, controlling, and/or manipulating the art and the artist, by tying the purse strings.
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh weighed in on Hill's use of the “slavery” defense during his Tuesday broadcast:
"She's saying she shouldn't have to pay taxes because her parents were slaves," the radio host noted.
“So here she is, a multimillionaire, loved and adored by millions of people, her music is purchased by tens of thousands of people, and she thinks she's a slave, or either using the excuse will somehow get her out of having to pay what she owes. It's just another sign of the cultural rot and decay.”
“Who's putting that kind of stuff in her mind?” he asked. “The Democrat Party.”
Even though Hill is scheduled to begin her jail sentence by July 8, there is some good news for the musician: She stated online that she has signed a recording contract with Sony.
"She is looking forward to putting her case behind her and getting back to her music and creating again," attorney Nathan Hochman said.
In searching around the interwebs, we could not find explicit documentation that Hill is a leftist. One hopes that her experience with the confiscatory tax system of America might help bring her around a bit to the reality that the wealthy in America pay far more than their fair share of taxes. As even the left-wing Huffington Post had to admit earlier this year, the top 1 percent of Americans (Hill was a member during the years she did not pay) will pay 30 percent of the federal income taxes.