Reality TV star Richard Hatch was ordered back to prison Friday to serve a nine-month sentence for failing to pay taxes on the $1 million he won on the first season of the hit CBS show "Survivor."
Hatch, who is currently appearing on NBC's "The Celebrity Apprentice," spent more than three years in prison for tax evasion before being released in 2009, and has been serving a three-year term of supervised release. During that period, he was supposed to refile his 2000 and 2001 taxes and pay what he owed, but he never did.
U.S. District Court Judge William Smith on Friday said Hatch, who has strenuously maintained his innocence, had exhibited no remorse and had made no effort to comply with an order that he straighten out and pay his taxes. He imposed a sentence three months longer than what was recommended by prosecutors: six months — the maximum in the federal sentencing guidelines.
He said the term of supervised release, which is supposed to be a time of rehabilitation, did not appear to be doing any good in Hatch's case. He said a substantial sentence was required to send a message to Hatch and others who flout the court's orders.
"You can continue to proclaim your innocence," Smith said. "You don't have the option of engaging in this type of game or negotiation with the court. It needs to be a severe punishment. That's the only thing that will deter you in the future."
He also ordered Hatch serve 26 months supervised release, during which time 25 percent of Hatch's gross income would be garnished and paid to the Internal Revenue Service. Prosecutor Andrew Reich said Friday that Hatch now owes an estimated $2 million to the IRS on the Survivor winnings and other income, including penalties.
Hatch, who lives in Newport, R.I., was ordered to report for his prison term on Monday.
He said outside court that he was disappointed and planned to appeal.
During the hearing, Hatch told Smith that he had fully cooperated with the terms of his release, and that his taxes were extremely complicated and he was working with an accountant to determine from the IRS what he owed. His lawyer said he had only made $26,000 to $27,000 in income since being released from prison, and said he had sought jobs in marketing, on a fishing boat and was currently trying to leverage his charity appearance on "Celebrity Apprentice" into paying jobs in the entertainment industry.
Hatch also told the judge he recently discovered he had a second son and was trying to build a relationship with him. He asked Smith because of that and the job opportunities that could come out of his "Celebrity Apprentice" appearance not to send him back to prison.
NBC said 11 of 12 episodes of "Celebrity Apprentice," which features 16 celebrities competing for charities, have already been taped. It premiered March 6. The finale, which ordinarily features the last two contenders and a winner chosen, is scheduled to air live on May 22.
NBC spokesman Sean Martin said Hatch's legal problems would have no effect on the show.
"The finale will move forward regardless," he said.
Asked outside court whether he was prepared to go back to prison, Hatch didn't answer.