A federal judge has begun selecting a tribal council — a jury — to determine whether “Survivor” winner Richard Hatch should be voted not off the island, but possibly into prison.
Hatch won a $1 million prize on the inaugural edition of the CBS reality television series in 2000. Federal prosecutors are accusing him of failing to pay income tax on his prize and other income.
The Newport, R.I. resident is also accused of spending money on himself that was earmarked for a charity he helped create. He has pleaded not guilty to tax evasion, filing a false tax return, wire fraud, bank fraud and mail fraud charges.
Hatch was in court Tuesday as U.S. District Court Judge Ernest Torres began the task of selecting 12 jurors and six alternates from a pool of 88 people. Several potential jurors glanced at Hatch and whispered as he walked in.
An estimated 51 million television viewers were watching when Hatch received his winning check during the two-hour “Survivor” finale. That didn’t include Judge Torres, who acknowledged to lawyers Tuesday that he never saw the show.
Each juror received a questionnaire asking whether they watched the first season of “Survivor,” and whether they had formed any opinions about Hatch, who was known for competing in the nude.
Hatch laughed when one elementary school teacher described what she recalled about the show.
“The way he dressed,” she told the judge.
The trial is expected to last up to three weeks, Torres said. Opening statements are scheduled for Thursday.