‘Survivor’ Richard Hatch is back behind bars
Mere hours after TODAY interview, reality show star taken into custody
ODAY staff and wire
updated 10:58 a.m. ET Aug. 19, 2009
Richard Hatch’s attorney and the sister at whose home the former “Survivor” winner was serving house arrest remained mystified Wednesday about why Hatch was arrested and taken back to a Rhode Island jail just a few hours after giving an interview to TODAY’s Matt Lauer.
Hatch’s sister, Kristin Hatch, speaking to Lauer Wednesday from her home in Newport, R.I., told Lauer that a sheriff’s deputy and another official arrived at her house within hours of Hatch’s interview airing Tuesday on TODAY to take Hatch into custody.
Kristin Hatch said that her brother told the deputy, “Do what you need to do, just tell me why.”
“I heard him tell Rich that he [Hatch] did an interview, and that’s why he was going back to prison,” Kristin Hatch told Lauer.
‘Tense phone call’
During nearly four years in prison for tax evasion, Hatch had been denied permission to give interviews. Hatch told Lauer that his TODAY interview, along with two other interviews he did, were approved by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). TODAY producers had confirmed that Lauer’s interview was approved.
Hatch’s attorney, Cynthia Ribas, who spoke with Lauer from Los Angeles, said she has been unable to find out why her client was taken back into custody.
“I have spoken to Richard, and I’m so sorry to say I don’t know what the grounds are for why they have him back in jail,” Ribas said. She added that over the past day she had placed numerous phone calls to both local and federal law enforcement authorities seeking an explanation, but had not heard back from any of them. She was hoping to get an answer later Wednesday.
Lauer had interviewed Hatch on Monday for the TODAY segment that ran Tuesday morning. While Hatch was preparing for the interview, Kristin Hatch said she got what she characterized as a “tense phone call” from a local sheriff’s deputy. The deputy demanded to speak to Hatch immediately. When his sister said that he was in the shower, “he was adamant that I hand Rich the phone in the shower, which I did,” she told Lauer.
After getting out of the shower, Hatch spoke with Ribas. “Cynthia got on the phone with the BOP and assured us everything was fine,” Kristin Hatch said.
“The interview, as you know, we got all of the clearances from the people at BOP,” Ribas added.
During the Tuesday interview with Lauer, his first since being released to house arrest in March, Hatch proclaimed his innocence and repeated his contention that he was the victim of prosecutorial misconduct and discrimination because he is gay.
“Is it possible it is less about that Richard did an interview and more about what Richard said in that interview?” Lauer asked Ribas Wednesday.
“I don’t think so, but I really don’t know. Everything Rich said is public record,” Ribas replied.
In addition to the interview with Lauer, Hatch later spoke with “Access Hollywood” and a local NBC affiliate. Both interviews were pre-approved by the BOP, his attorney has said.
Hatch also called a local radio station to respond to comments that were made about him on the air. John DePetro, host of the radio show on Rhode Island’s WPRO-AM, said that Hatch called in to his show twice without the station first getting permission from the BOP. DePetro said the station didn’t get the permission because Hatch called in on his own.
Ribas compared Hatch to Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the former boxer who was released after spending 20 years in prison in New Jersey for three murders that he said he never committed. Bob Dylan helped win Carter’s release by writing a song about the case.
The former “Survivor” star was taken to the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office in Bourne, Mass., which has a contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to hold federal inmates. “We just don’t have the same kind of details on the federal inmates we book as we do with the regular city and county inmates,” explained Sheriff's Office spokesman Roy Lyons. “It’s got to be that he violated some kind of condition. There’s no other reason this would have happened.”
Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, told TODAY that her agency could not reveal specific information about Hatch’s situation, adding that there are a variety of reasons to return inmates from house arrest to confinement.
Before being taken back into custody, Richard Hatch had to get permission a week in advance to leave his sister’s property for any reason.
During his interview with Lauer on Tuesday morning, Hatch insisted he is innocent of the tax-evasion charges that put him behind bars in the first place. He has maintained that CBS, which produced and aired the first “Survivor” series that starred Hatch in 2000, promised to pay the taxes on the $1 million he won on the show.
“I know without question that there are personal issues involved for the prosecutor. I don’t know why. The prosecutorial misconduct has been egregious,” Hatch told Lauer. “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.”
He insisted he will pay whatever taxes he owes when he gets a bill from the IRS.
“Whatever they assess, I’m going to pay. Whatever is owed, I will pay,” Hatch told Lauer. “I’ve to this day never had an assessment. There were other issues on those tax returns, as there would be on any American’s return, that people would question.”
In Tuesday's interview, Hatch said he believed he had been made a victim because of his open homosexuality. Former U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente, whose office oversaw Hatch's case, told WPRO-AM that Hatch is “delusional.”
Before his arrest on Tuesday afternoon, Hatch, 48, had been scheduled to be released from house arrest on Oct. 7. He told Lauer that he is “financially devastated” after paying lawyers and being imprisoned for nearly four years.
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/32468188/ns/today-today_people/?gt1=43001