Driver acquitted of most charges

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MIAMI --- Brazilian race car driver and Dancing With The Stars champ Helio Castroneves was acquitted Friday of most charges that he worked with his sister and lawyer to evade more than $2.3 million in U.S. income taxes.

A federal jury acquitted Castroneves on six counts of tax evasion but hung on one count of conspiracy. When the sentence was read, Castroneves, 33, broke into sobs and leaned against his attorneys for support.

The jury also acquitted Katiucia Castroneves, 35, who is her brother's business manager, on the tax evasion counts but also hung on the conspiracy. Michigan motorsports attorney Alan Miller, 71, was acquitted on all three counts of tax evasion and one count of conspiracy. The jury deliberated six days after a six-week trial.

Castroneves, speaking in his native Portuguese, expressed profound relief.

"I just want to thank God and my fans, and all of the people who prayed for me," he said outside the courtroom, still fingering a rosary.

All three faced more than six years in prison if convicted of conspiracy and tax evasion between 1999 and 2004.

The case mainly revolved around income from a $2 million sponsorship deal Castroneves had with the Brazilian firm Coimex and his $5 million licensing deal he reached with Penske Racing in late 1999.

Alicia Valle, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office, said prosecutors will review all of the options on the hung conspiracy charge "to determine how best to proceed."

BACK ON TRACK

Helio Castroneves will be back on track less than 24 hours after the Brazilian driver was acquitted of tax evasion charges.

Penske Racing president Tim Cindric said the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner will return to his No. 3 IndyCar in time for practice and qualifying today for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Will Power has been the temporary replacement for Castroneves.

He will drive a third Penske entry in Sunday's race and also will race for the team in May in the Indy 500.

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