Richard Hatch is still stuck on the island.
A federal appeals court in Boston upheld the Survivor winner's conviction on tax-evasion charges, further rejecting his claim that he was under the impression that the show's producers were going to pay the taxes on his $1 million prize.
The 46-year-old Rhode Island resident was sentenced to 51 months in prison on May 16, 2006, five months after being convicted of failing to pay taxes on his Survivor dough, as well as some proceeds he received from a radio hosting gig in Boston and rent from property he owns. The trial judge also tacked on a few months, because he believed the former corporate trainer had lied on the stand.
After being shuttled between a few different few lock-and-key locations, Hatch eventually ended up at the low-security Federal Correctional Institute in Morgantown, West Virginia, in August 2006. He is slated to be released in October 2009.
His lawyers hatched his appeal that December, arguing that U.S. District Court Judge Ernest Torres improperly barred them from presenting evidence during the trial that Hatch had struck a palm-greasing deal with CBS because he witnessed producers sneaking food to contestants during the pioneering show's first season.
Excluding that line of testimony "eviscerated Hatch's defense," attorney Michael Minn wrote in his appeal.
CBS has firmly denied any so-called arrangement between the network and Hatch. Survivor mastermind Mark Burnett took the stand during Hatch's trial but was never asked about any conspiracy. He testified that Hatch and all the contestants signed contracts stating they were responsible for their own taxes.
But the 52-page ruling issued by the three-judge First Circuit Court of Appeals stated that the federal court in Providence, where Hatch was tried, was "well within its discretion" to insist that Hatch supply evidence of what Burnett or others might have said to make him believe they would foot his IRS bill.
The U.S. District Court gave Hatch ample opportunity to take the stand to state his case, the ruling continued, but he never capitalized on the chance. "The failure of Hatch to present any evidence of such conversations when invited by the court strongly suggested that no actual promises were made, and no such 'deal' actually existed," the judges wrote.
"It was not the court's right, much less duty, to put words in Hatch's mouth."
Minn called the appellate court's decision "disappointing," and that it will be up to Hatch if he wants to present the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hatch is doing better "than many people would" in prison, Minn told reporters Friday. "Right now his greatest suffering is not being able to interact with his family members. He's really a decent human being."