Hatch's "Survivor" Tax Trial Twist
by Sarah Hall
Jan 20, 2006, 4:30 PM PT
As it turns out, original Survivor winner Richard Hatch has a few tricks up his sleeve.
The reality champ's defense attorney dropped a bombshell Friday at Hatch's federal tax evasion trial, alleging that Survivor producers struck a deal with Hatch while he was a contestant on the show, agreeing to pay the taxes on his million-dollar prize if he won.
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The bargain purportedly came about after Hatch allegedly caught some of his fellow contestants cheating by having friends sneak food to them on the island. He told producers, who ultimately attempted to buy his silence, the story goes.
Hatch testified he never ate anything during the competition that he didn't find or catch himself, or win as a reward.
The revelation of the alleged deal came during a break in Hatch's testimony when his lawyer, Michael Minns, told U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres of his plan to have Hatch testify about his bargain with the producers.
Torres did not immediately comment on whether Hatch could tell the jury about the deal, and Hatch's completed testimony for the day without mentioning the purported cover-up. It was not clear whether Hatch and Minns would bring up the Survivor allegations Monday.
Mark Burnett, executive producer of Survivor, took the stand earlier in the trial, but neither the defense nor the prosecution asked him about any deal he might have made with Hatch.
However, two of Hatch's fellow island inhabitants have spoken up, expressing their doubts about the veracity of his claims.
"I think he's just talking. What friends could bring them food? There ain't no friends on the island," former contestant Rudy Boesch told TMZ.com. "I don't know nothing about what he's talking about and I don't know why he's saying it. Everybody in the world saw him win a million dollars."
Boesch's sentiments were echoed by Dr. Sean Kenniff, another season one contestant.
"I never witnessed any cheating by Survivor contestants, Survivor producers or other Survivor staff," Kenniff said. "During my 36 days on the island, I lost about 30 pounds--fair evidence that I certainly wasn't the recipient of any prohibited food!"
But other sources told TMZ.com that there was cheating going on and that it was no secret.
"We had our own little area, a couple of hundred yards away from the contestants," a cameraman, who asked not to be named, told TMZ.com. "They [the contestants] would sneak in and we would see candy wrappers around their camp."
Another season one contestant who also asked not to be named said she frequently saw her competitors snacking on candy and Power Bars.
In addition to failing to report his reality television earnings, Hatch is accused of failing to pay taxes on hundreds of thousands of dollars of other income and spending money donated to a charity on himself.
Minns has argued that though his client is "not stupid," he is the "world's worst bookkeeper," and that his failure to give the IRS the proper cut of his earnings was merely an oversight.
If convicted, Hatch could face up to 75 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to outwit, outplay and outlast the case against him.