Richard Hatch, the first-season winner of the reality TV series Survivor, has
appealed his conviction on tax evasion charges to the US Supreme Court, reports
Hatch was convicted in 2006 of ducking taxes on his £511,246 prize, in
addition to his income from co-hosting a radio show and rental properties he
owned in Rhode Island. Hatch’s attorney Michael Minns argued the district court
violated his client’s rights by curtailing Hatch’s explanation of why he
believed the TV show producers had paid the taxes on his winnings.
He also argued the court improperly limited Hatch’s right to cross-examine
witnesses, including his own accountant, and that the court improperly allowed
the government to use what Hatch called unqualified experts while excluding some
testimony from Hatch’s own expert. Minns also contended that Hatch’s sentence
was unreasonably harsh. Hatch received a 51-month prison sentence.
He noted that the jury had acquitted his client on seven of the original
charges against him, but the judge did not allow him to make a full presentation
on the other charges or to fully cross-examine the witnesses against his client.
‘The first person that got hold of Richard Hatch was a big shot in a big
firm, and this guy had never prepared an entertainment return in his life,’ said
Hatch’s agent said the original tax preparer didn’t know what he was doing
and sent him to a lawyer who turned Hatch’s business into an S corporation.
Hatch then went to another accountant, a fan of Survivor and a family friend who
claimed she could prepare the return, but Minns said that her main experience
involved preparing tax returns for her father.
Minns believes the accountant should have prepared the return as if it were
for someone working for an off-shore business, given the length of time Hatch
spent on the Survivor island of Pulau Tiga, and that she should have treated
Hatch as an employee, and not an independent contractor, which could have
reduced Hatch’s prison sentence.
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