Lauryn Hill sentenced to 3 months in prison in tax evasion case

Lauryn Hill was sentenced to three months in federal prison Monday for failing to pay taxes on an estimated $1.8 million in income.

U.S. District Court Judge Madeline Cox Arleo handed down the sentence in Newark, N.J., ruling that the Grammy-winning singer would have to complete an additional three months under house arrest followed by nine months of supervised release and ordering her to pay a $60,000 fine, according to TMZ, the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal.

The sentence will begin the July 8, though it is unclear where she’ll serve her time, TMZ said.


Hill, 37, pleaded guilty last summer to three misdemeanor counts of tax evasion, admitting that she intentionally failed to file tax returns in 2005, 2006 and 2007. She faced a potential prison sentence of one year for each of the three counts, but her attorney sought probation in the case.

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Though Hill pleaded guilty for the time period between 2005 to 2007 when she is said to have earned about $1.8 million, her sentence also took into account additional income and tax losses for 2008 and 2009 and an outstanding tax liability to the state of New Jersey, for a total income of about $2.3 million and a total tax loss of about $1,006,517, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The South Orange, N.J., native “fully paid” her debt by making a last-minute payment to the IRS on Sunday, her attorney Nathan Hochman said before the hearing. He said that the restitution, federal and state taxes and penalties brought the sum to about $970,000.

In the hearing, Hill addressed the judge and likened her situation to slavery.

“I was put into a system I didn’t know the nature of.... I’m a child of former slaves. I got into an economic paradigm and had that imposed on me,” she said. “I sold 50 million units ... now I’m up here paying a tax debt. If that’s not likened to slavery, I don’t know what is.”

The mother of six said she had always planned to pay the taxes but couldn’t because she had left the music business and withdrew from society at the time. Her last album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” was released in 1998 and earned her several Grammy Awards.

“I needed to be able to earn so I could pay my taxes, without compromising the health and welfare of my children, and I was being denied that,” Hill said in court. She had five of her children with Rohan Marley, the son of reggae singer Bob Marley.

After the sentencing, Hochman released this statement (via WSJ):

“The Court today viewed the totality of Ms. Hill’s circumstances — her incredible career, her decades of charitable works, her responsibilities to her six children, her full acceptance of responsibility for her actions, and her voluntary and full payment prior to sentencing of over $970,000 of back taxes owed — in rejecting the government’s request for a 36 month prison sentence and sentencing Ms. Hill to 3 months of prison and 1 year of probation, 3 months of which to be spent in house arrest.”

Last month, her sentencing was delayed by two weeks to give her a final chance to pay the remainder of the money she owed, at least $504,000 in federal back taxes. Soon after, Hill announced that she had inked a record deal with Sony. She released a new track last Friday called “Neurotic Society,” which was posted on iTunes, but not without clarifying why she did so via her Tumblr page.

“Here is a link to a piece that I was ‘required’ to release immediately, by virtue of the impending legal deadline,” she wrote. “I love being able to reach people directly, but in an ideal scenario, I would not have to rush the release of new music… but the message is still there. In light of Wednesday’s tragic loss [of former label mate Chris Kelly], I am even more pressed to YELL this to a multitude that may not understand the cost of allowing today’s unhealthy paradigms to remain unchecked!”


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