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Hip hop star Lauryn Hill gets three months for tax evasion

Grammy-winning singer Lauryn Hill leaves the Federal Court in Newark, April 22, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Grammy-winning singer Lauryn Hill leaves the Federal Court in Newark, April 22, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By David Jones

NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - A U.S. magistrate judge sentenced Grammy-winning hip hop artist Lauryn Hill to three months in prison, three months in home confinement and a $60,000 fine on Monday for federal tax evasion.

Hill pleaded guilty last year to three counts of failing to file tax returns on more than $1.8 million of income between 2005 and 2007 and faced up to three years in prison.

Hill has attributed her failure to pay taxes to years of pressure she experienced as a recording star while raising six children, forcing her to go underground and stay out of the public eye.

On the eve of her scheduled sentencing, Hill paid $504,000 in back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service and another $420,000 to the state of New Jersey, her attorney told the court. She still owes another $285,000 in interest and penalties.

"When the government is asking for 36 months and the judge gives three months, I think the judge gave a fair and reasonable sentence," Hill's attorney Nathan Hochman told reporters.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 30 months to the maximum of 36 months.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo cited Hill's lack of a criminal record, her six children and her repayment of the back taxes as mitigating factors in the sentence.

Hill must report on or before July 8. Her attorney asked the court to assign the native of South Orange, New Jersey, to a facility close to home. The three months of home confinement following the prison stay is part of one year of supervised probation.

Hill told the court she pulled away from society because her life was in crisis, received veiled threats and was blacklisted because she did not conform to the norms of the music industry.

"I was being perceived as a cash cow, not a person," Hill said.

A new single by Hill, her first in several years, called "Neurotic Society," was posted on iTunes on Friday.

"Here is a link to a piece that I was 'required' to release immediately, by virtue of the impending legal deadline," her Tumblr social media page said on Saturday.

Her lawyers confirmed that she signed a new contract with Sony Worldwide Entertainment and was working on her first album of new material in more than a decade.

Hill's seminal 1998 solo album "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" won the singer, a former member of the Fugees rap trio, five Grammy awards.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta, Andrew Hay and Philip Barbara)

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