Outspoken Christian actor Stephen Baldwin has resolved a tax dispute with the State of New York and will not be sent to jail. Under the agreement, announced today, Baldwin has up to five years to pay back $350,000 in back taxes and penalties, his lawyer said.
The youngest of the Baldwin brothers—all of whom are actors—the 46-year-old has faced financial troubles in the past few years and was arrested in December on charges of failing to file his 2008, 2009, and 2010 tax returns to the State of New York. He has said speaking up about his faith made it difficult to find work in Hollywood.
Attorney Russell Yankwitt said Baldwin will admit in court that he repeatedly failed to file his state income tax returns. If he pays the money within a year, his record will be wiped clean. If not, he will be sentenced to probation and given five years to pay back the money.
"He relied upon others," Yankwitt said, citing an accountant and a previous lawyer. "He no longer does that. He never intended to defraud the government. The government understands that."
Baldwin is best known for his role in the 1995 Academy Award-winning film The Usual Suspects. He also starred in the comedy Bio-Dome, One Tough Cop, and The Flinstones in Viva Rock Vegas. In his autobiography, he said he got caught up in the movie star lifestyle of money, fame, hard partying, and substance abuse.
In the early 1990s, before the birth of Baldwin’s first daughter, his wife, Kennya, hired a nanny from Brazil. Kennya noticed she was singing songs about Jesus and asked her why she only sang about Jesus. The nanny laughed and said “I think it’s a little bit funny that you think I’m here to clean your house,” Baldwin said during an appearance on the The 700 Club. She told the couple she heard a prophetic word that the Baldwins would become Christians and involved in ministry.
Over the next few years Kennya started spending time talking to and reading the Bible with the nanny, and eventually become a Christian. For Baldwin, it wasn’t until the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that he really started to examine his faith. He accepted Christ a month later.
From then, his trajectory changed. He created an extreme sport ministry called The Breakthrough Ministry, and a ministry to the U.S. military called Now More Than Ever. He wrote the autobiography Unusual Suspect, which chronicled his conversion and worked on faith-based films such as Loving the Bad Man in 2010. Further distancing himself from liberal Hollywood, Baldwin hosts Baldwin/McCullough Radio, a conservative talk show and has also supported Republican candidates for office.
Based on his Christian and conservative leanings, Baldwin started seeing a backlash from the industry: “Producers and casting directors have told me people don’t want to work with me because they’re concerned about me being so outspoken about my faith,” Baldwin told the U.K.’s Metro in 2010. “It’s a choice I’ve made but I believe I’m called on to share my faith with people.”
In recent years, Baldwin found some work on reality shows, which often cast Christians to create controversy. Baldwin has appeared on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, Celebrity Big Brother, and Celebrity Apprentice. He often shares his faith on the shows.
Around the same time, Baldwin started facing financial troubles. In 2009, Baldwin and his wife defaulted on more than $824,000 in mortgage payments to their home, leading to its foreclosure in June. A month later, Baldwin filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with court documents revealing he is millions of dollars in debt.
When asked about how Baldwin will pay back the taxes, attorney Yankwitt said his client is doing commercials and acting.
"The economy is not what it was, and Mr. Baldwin is a faith-based actor, which makes it harder to get roles," Yankwitt said. "In the past he did movies that portrayed violence and drugs. He no longer does those types of movies."