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‘Survivor’ Hatch behind bars for TV interviews

The lawyer for "Survivor" winner Richard Hatch says he was taken to jail because he granted two TV interviews without getting the required permission from the federal Bureau of Prisons. The approval granted for Hatch’s TODAY interview did not extend to other NBC properties, the lawyer said.
/ Source: TODAY staff and wire

The lawyer for “Survivor” winner Richard Hatch said he was taken to jail because he granted two TV interviews without getting the required permission from the federal Bureau of Prisons. Hatch had been serving the remainder of his prison term for tax evasion on home confinement at his sister's home in Rhode Island. He granted three television interviews on Tuesday — to TODAY’s Matt Lauer, NBC affiliate WJAR-TV and the NBC-owned “Access Hollywood.”The Bureau of Prisons said permission is needed for each media outlet that gets an interview with any prisoner serving a home confinement term. Hatch's lawyer, Cynthia Ribas, said Wednesday afternoon that the bureau told her it only gave permission for the interview with TODAY. She says she thought the permission extended to all NBC properties.

On Wednesday morning, Ribas and Hatch's sister appeared on TODAY and said they were mystified about why Hatch had been arrested and taken back to jail just a few hours after his Tuesday interview with Lauer.

Hatch’s sister, Kristin Hatch — speaking from her home in Newport, R.I., where Hatch has been living under house arrest — told Lauer that a sheriff’s deputy and another official arrived at her house within hours of the TODAY interview airing 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 confirmed that Lauer’s interview was approved.

Hatch also called a local radio station twice on Tuesday to respond to comments that were made about him on the air. That station did not have formal approval to interview Hatch because Hatch called in on his own.

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 TODAY interview on Wednesday morning.

Public recordDuring 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 former U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente, who oversaw Hatch's prosecution, was on his show and commented that Hatch was "delusional."

"When he heard the Corrente interview, that's what set him off," DePetro said. "He was hot when he called in."

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.

Federal Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said prisoners on home confinement cannot grant interviews without first getting permission. She said approval typically takes a few days and is sought by and granted to the media outlet.

Billingsley said prisoners who are jailed after breaking the rules of home confinement could be moved back to a prison, to a halfway house or returned to home confinement after a hearing with a disciplinary officer.

‘Prosecutorial misconduct’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.”

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.