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'Survivor' winner Richard Hatch: I was imprisoned because I'm gay


By Christopher Rocchio, 08/18/2009 

Richard Hatch claims sexual discrimination and prosecutorial misconduct landed him behind bars.

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The original Survivor champ said he believes the judge in his 2006 tax evasion case discriminated against him because he's gay and also accused federal prosecutors of lying to the IRS about the circumstances surrounding his trial.

"I know without question that there are personal issues involved for the prosecutor. I don't know why," said Hatch during an interview with Matt Lauer that aired during NBC's Today broadcast on Tuesday. 

"The prosecutorial misconduct has been egregious.  He told the court I didn't pay my taxes in 2000, and he told the court I haven't been cooperative.  The IRS specifically contradicts that.  I don't have a bill for 2000; I haven't even been assessed for 2000 and I've been fully cooperative."

"When the judge -- from what you told me -- refused to question potential jurors in terms of their feelings on homosexuality, do you think [the judge] felt he had a legal reason to do that or do you think in some way he was trying to discriminate against you?" asked Lauer.

"My personal opinion, he was trying to discriminate against me," replied Hatch. 

"Are you saying to me that if you were heterosexual you would not have gone to prison?" questioned Lauer.

"I do believe that," answered Hatch.  "I don't think you or anyone else could deny that we as homosexuals face discrimination."

Lauer said a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office called Hatch's claims "baseless" and added they feel he is "rehashing the same arguments that he unsuccessfully made at trial."

Hatch received a 51-month federal prison sentence following his January 2006 tax eviction conviction for failing to pay taxes on the $1 million prize he received for winning Survivor's first season in 2000. 

He is currently serving the final months of his sentence in home confinement at his Newport, RI home.  The 48-year-old is scheduled to be released October 7.

Lauer said he received "special permission" to interview Hatch during the home confinement stint.

(Photo credit CBS)


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