Original 'Survivor' winner Richard Hatch an "innocent man in jail"
By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 03/16/2007
While it may only be a minimum-security prison, it's not like original Survivor winner Richard Hatch is lounging around naked on the beaches of Panama.
"Obviously, this is better than the county lockup. There's no fence here," Hatch told People during an interview that appears in the magazine's March 26 issue. "But people think I've come to a country club. It's not. This is prison. Just because it's got a beautiful view of the countryside doesn't make it a resort."
A jury convicted Hatch of tax evasion last January in U.S. District Court, and the 45-year-old Newport, RI resident is currently serving a 51-month sentence at a minimum-security prison camp in Morgantown, WV. At his trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Hatch "intentionally avoided" paying taxes on income from Survivor, a stint as a radio-show host, celebrity appearances and rental property.
"It's horrendous because I'm an innocent man in jail," Hatch told People.
While filming the first season of Survivor in Borneo, Hatch alleges he saw a member of the reality competition series' production crew give food to other castaways throughout the course of the show. When he eventually won the first season of Survivor, Hatch said he thought CBS would pay for the taxes on his $1 million winnings -- an allegation that even if true, still would 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
"During Survivor, I caught them cheating -- that's where this story really begins," Hatch told People. "I demanded that something be done."
Although he 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, Hatch has claimed that after a "heated" meeting with the show's executive producers, they allegedly agreed to pay his taxes if he'd keep quiet about the cheating.
"The allegations have no merit, and certainly no one connected with the show agreed to pay the taxes on Richard's prize money," CBS spokeswoman Colleen Sullivan told People.
On March 8, Hatch's lawyers filed an appeal on his behalf to overturn his conviction. While he told People, "You don't understand how much you miss your home life until it's taken away from you," Hatch is still keeping busy in prison.
"[I'm] working on a book that I should have no trouble getting published," he told People.