Prosecutors file brief opposing Richard Hatch's bid for new trial
By Christopher Rocchio, 01/08/2007
Was there a deal between CBS and original show winner Richard Hatch that could have kept the former Survivor contestant out of jail for evading taxes on income he received for winning the reality series' first season? If there was such a deal, federal prosecutors recently said Hatch and his lawyer had numerous opportunities to officially say so, but did not.
The Providence Journal has reported that federal prosecutors filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday arguing that Chief U.S. District Judge Ernest C. Torres gave Hatch's lawyer, Michael Minns, plenty of chances to explore the myriad of tax implications which arose that would have led CBS to pay the Newport, RI native's taxes on his winnings.
While Hatch was on trial for tax evasion last January, Minns asked the federal judge during a break if Hatch could testify about an alleged deal with Survivor producers, who according to Minns promised to take care of the tax issues if Hatch kept his mouth shut about alleged cheating that took place during the first season's filming. The cheating included allegations that Hatch caught Survivor's producers smuggling food to another contestant. Ultimately, the alleged cheating by contestants did not come up as Hatch finished testifying in his Rhode Island tax evasion trial, and the 45-year-old was convicted and sentenced to 51 months in prison last February.
The issue of cheating and the alleged deal was the basis for Hatch's appeal, which was filed on December 7. However The Journal reported that federal prosecutors said Minns simply failed to ask Survivor producer Mark Burnett, a witness for the prosecution, or Hatch, who testified on his own behalf, whether a tax deal had been struck. In their response to the appeal, lawyers for the U.S. Attorney's office claim that Torres, while prohibiting Minns from delving into the rules of the reality series, did make it clear that he would allow questions about the details of any tax deal made between producers and Hatch.
So where were the questions from Minns?
According to The Journal, while Hatch did testify about how the filming of the show nearly stopped "as a result of a number of things that took place" and how "I personally had many discussions with Burnett and others afterward," Minns failed to specifically ask whether the conversations were about taxes. Later in the trial, Minns told the judge he wanted to ask Hatch about how the rules of Survivor were "being constantly changed" and how "people with the program who did not want Richard Hatch to win, began to try and manipulate it for him to lose." According to Minns, Hatch confronted CBS producers about the alleged cheating and "left with the understanding that if he won the show, the studio would pay his taxes."
The Journal reported that Torres said "the details of how the show was being staged" were not relevant, but added, "If there is evidence as to what the persons running the Survivor show and responsible for compensating him may have told him about the taxability of his prize money or who would pay the taxes on the prize, that's a different matter. I thought I made that clear, that you could go into that."
In their brief, prosecutors assert that "faced with yet another opportunity to ask the key questions of Hatch, [Minns] stated that would not make 'any sense whatsoever' unless it was first put in 'context.'"
Hatch is currently serving his sentence at FCI Morgantown, WV., which is comparable to a minimum-security prison camp.