Richard Hatch, the original $1 million Survivor winner, was sentenced on Tuesday to 51 months in prison for failing to pay income taxes on his TV prize and other earnings.
Rhode Island U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres said he issued a harsher than expected sentence because Hatch, 45, had committed perjury repeatedly during his trial. The charges carried a maximum of 13 years behind bars. When Hatch was convicted in January, the jurist said he expected to sentence him to 33 to 41 months.
“It seems unfortunately, I’m very sorry to say, very clear to me that you lied, repeatedly,” Torres said. “In this case, there’s no doubt in my mind that Mr. Hatch willfully gave false testimony in regards to material facts.”
“I believe I’ve been completely truthful and completely forthcoming throughout the entire process,” Hatch told the judge before he was sentenced. Throughout his trial he claimed he thought the show’s producers would handle his taxes, pleaded ignorance about money matters, and said he forgot to tell his accountants about some income.
Hatch’s attorney, Michael Minns, said he does not believe Hatch will ever be able to pay his taxes, which now include huge penalties on top of the original amount. “He’s probably going to be a debtor for the next 20 or 30 years.”
Earlier in the proceedings, Hatch abruptly walked away from a plea deal with prosecutors and pleaded his innocence to Katie Couric on the Today show.
Already others have heeded lessons from Hatch’s plight. On Sunday’s latest Survivor finale, show host Jeff Probst advised new winner, 24-year-old yoga instructor Aras Baskauskas, right after his victory: “Pay your taxes!”