The lawyers who saved actor Wesley Snipes from growing old in prison sat grinning at each other across a huge glass-topped desk.

"Wesley dropped us," said Barnes, his smile curling around the Cuban cigar wedged in the left corner of his mouth. "Isn't this fun?" Bernhoft mused, sounding more like a man chipping golf balls than one who's been fired by his biggest client. "It's the little things in life."

Just eight weeks earlier, the Bobs had persuaded a Florida jury to find Snipes not guilty of two felonies: conspiracy to defraud the federal government and filing a false claim for a $7 million tax refund. Of the six misdemeanor counts that Snipes also faced (for not filing tax returns from 1999 to 2004), he was convicted of only three.

So why were the Bobs happy to get the boot? Because they knew that Snipes,who had yet to be sentenced,could still tarnish them. Before getting fired, they'd advised him to make a good-faith offer to defray his tax debt. He declined, a decision they predicted (correctly, it turned out) would guarantee him the maximum prison term of three years. Getting axed protected them from being blamed for that sentence. "We're absolved," Bernhoft said,which was critical, because the Bobs had big plans.

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