Richard Hatch has previously argued he's an "innocent man in jail," a viewpoint that appeals judges apparently disagreed with.

The U.S. District Court of Appeals upheld the original Survivor winner's 51-month sentence for his January 2006 tax evasion conviction, The Providence Journal reported Saturday.

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 46-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.

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 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 CBS and Burnett have consistently denied -- to pay Hatch's tax liability if he kept quiet about the alleged cheating.

Last March, Hatch's lawyer Michael Minns filed an appeal 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.

"You can certainly get into anything that Mr. Hatch has to say on the rules of how he was going to be compensated if he won," the appeals judges quoted Torres as saying, The Journal reported.

The appeals judges agreed with the prosecutors' explanation that Torres wanted to avoid "broad questioning" about alleged cheating on Survivor while still allowing Minns to delve into any tax deals that may have been made, The Journal reported.

"The court understandably observed that the details of how the show was being staged were not in themselves relevant to Hatch's state of mind when he filed his tax returns almost two years later," the judges wrote in their decision, according to The Journal.

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's lawyers] never asked [Burnett] on cross-examination whether he or others at SEG had promised that SEG would pay Hatch's taxes -- nor did the defense later call Burnett as its own witness and seek to elicit such testimony," the decision states, according to The Journal.  "[Hatch himself] never testified at trial to the events and words by Burnett or others that might constitute a quid pro quo deal... although specifically invited to do so by the court on several occasions."

Hatch is currently serving his 51-month sentence at a minimum-security prison camp in Morgantown, WV, and the appeals judges stood by Torres' decision to deal out the maximum sentence.
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"[Torres] catalogued many instances in which Hatch had committed perjury," the decision reads, according to The Journal.

Hatch is scheduled to be released in October 2009, according to The Associated Press.