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    Jurors Extinguish Richard Hatch's Torch

    On the original Survivor, Richard Hatch was found guilty of being a snake. Six years later, jurors in Rhode Island more or less agreed.

    Hatch was convicted Wednesday of being a tax cheat for failing to mention his headline-making $1 million reality-series prize and other income. After, the clothes-optional corporate trainer was deigned a flight risk, outfitted with a pair of metal bracelets, and whisked from the courtroom to jail.

    Sentencing has been scheduled for Apr. 28. Hatch, 44, faces a maximum 13-year prison sentence and $600,000 fine.

    All in all, Hatch's day could have been worse: He had been staring down a potential 30-year prison stint. But jurors acquitted him of all but three of 10 counts detailed in a federal indictment.

    In closing arguments in the Rhode Island capital Tuesday, the Providence Journal reported, federal prosecutor Andrew Reich argued that Hatch was in hot water for the most elemental of reasons: "Greed. He didn't want to pay the taxes he owed."

    Defense attorney Michael Minns countered that Hatch was merely "the world's worst bookkeeper" who was an easy target for persecution because of his Survivor taint as the "evil villain."

    Hatch, who hails from Rhode Island, outwitted, outlasted and outplayed his fellow Malaysian island castaways on the inaugural 2000 season of Survivor. In a famous farewell address, fellow contestant Susan Hawk declared Hatch a "snake"--and the most worthy candidate for show's coveted title. The islanders took up Hawk on the recommendation, and voted Hatch the winner, an honor that came with a $1 million check.

    On the stand, Hatch said he was under the impression that CBS, Survivor's network home, was to pay the taxes on the tribal earnings. Survivor creator Mark Burnett offered contrary testimony, saying Hatch signed a contract that stated he was responsible for answering to the Internal Revenue Service.

    If Hatch's official defense was arguably weak--he didn't know any better, he can't keep records, etc.--his unofficial defense was incontestably intriguing. With the jurors away last Friday, Minns noted that Hatch believed Camp Survivor would take care of his taxes because it told him it would--a reputed agreement meant to keep Hatch quiet about alleged cheating on the show.

    In the end, several of Hatch's ex-castaways disputed the story, and jurors never heard the allegation as Hatch himself never brought it up on the stand.

    The most crucial moment in the Hatch case came in March 2005, months before the trial. That's when Hatch rejected a deal that would have seen prosecutors recommend a five-year prison term and $250,000 fine in exchange for a guilty plea.

    Hatch's tax-evasion conviction is the latest bump in his post-Survivor road. While the show brought him fame, a book deal (101 Survival Secrets) and a berth in 2004's Survivor-All Stars, it also rated him headlines when he was arrested, once for allegedly abusing his son, and once for allegedly assaulting an ex-boyfriend. Hatch eventually was cleared in both cases.

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