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Jailed 'Survivor' champ Richard Hatch files U.S. Supreme Court appeal


By Christopher Rocchio, 06/03/2008 

Richard Hatch is apparently a firm believer that if at first you don't succeed, try again.

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After the U.S. District Court of Appeals upheld the original Survivor winner's 51-month sentence for his January 2006 tax evasion conviction earlier this year, Hatch appealed his conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court last week, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court takes only a small amount of the appeals it receives, Hatch's lawyer Michael Minns said his client is hopeful.

"He's extremely optimistic about his appeal," Minns told The AP. "He still believes the system should work."

At Hatch's eight-day trial two years ago, prosecutors presented evidence that he "intentionally avoided" paying taxes on income from Survivor, a stint as a radio-show host, celebrity appearances and rental property.  A 12-person jury found the now 47-year-old guilty of two tax evasion counts and one count of filing a false corporate return.

Hatch has claimed that he believed either CBS or Survivor's production company would pay for the taxes on his $1 million winnings -- an allegation that even if true, would still not explain Hatch's conviction for evading taxes on the Pontiac Aztec he received as Survivor's winner; $28,000 of real estate rental income; and an additional $327,000 that he earned during a Boston radio show co-host stint that followed his Survivor win. 

Hatch opted not to testify about the allegations during his sworn trial testimony and his lawyer only mentioned Hatch's "cheating" claims during trial proceedings that took place when the trial jury wasn't present in the courtroom.

However Hatch has claimed that his tax liability understanding stemmed from an alleged incident in which he claimed to have seen a Survivor crew member violate the show's rules by giving food to some of the other castaways while the show was filming.

Hatch claims that he then had a "heated" meeting with Survivor executive producer Mark Burnett.  According to Hatch, that meeting allegedly ended with an agreement -- which both CBS and Burnett have consistently denied -- to pay Hatch's tax liability if he kept quiet about the alleged cheating.

Minns filed an appeal in March 2007 on his client's behalf to overturn his conviction on the grounds that Judge Ernest Torres prevented him from "adequately exploring" that "key part" of Hatch's defense.

However the appeals court disagreed and noted that Torres had specifically stated otherwise during Hatch's trial and overturned the appeal.  In addition, the decision also noted Burnett had testified as the prosecution's first witness and Hatch's lawyers had an adequate opportunity to ask about the deal.

Hatch is currently serving his 51-month sentence at a minimum-security prison camp in Morgantown, WV and Minns told The AP he is in the process of writing a book.

"[It's about] his experiences with the legal system and his disappointment not just with the problems that he suffered but with the problems other people have suffered that he has met," Minns told The AP.

Hatch is scheduled to be released in October 2009.

(Photo credit CBS)


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