Sunday, May 15, 2011

Survivor Spurns Self Reliance - Richard Hatch Loses Appeal

U.S. v. HATCH, Cite as 107 AFTR 2d 2011-XXXX

I plead to the jury tonight to think a little bit of the island we have been on. This island is full of, pretty much, only two things - snakes and rats. And in the end of Mother Nature, we have Richard The Snake, who knowingly went after prey; and Kelly, who turned into the rat that ran around like rats do on this island, trying to run from the snake. I believe we owe it to the island spirits we have come to know to let it end in the way that Mother Nature intended: For the snake to eat the rat.
Susan Hawk - "Rat and Snake" Speech - Final Episode

My criteria for tax developments to blog about are practical utility, humor and matter for reflection.  The proportions vary.  This one, while having some humor, is mainly about matter for reflection.  Richard Hatch was the winner of the competition in the "reality" TV show Survivor.  Now when I think of someone who is a champion survivor what I think of more than anything is the idea of self-reliance.  Of course, that is more of the Robinson Crusoe scenario.  Human beings are social beings so maybe having the criteria for your survival be based on the vote of the group has some merit.  Regardless even by that standard I think in real reality the group would favor the person who took responsibility for the outcome of his own behavior.  It appears that Richard Hatch is the practical antithesis of taking responsiblity for his own actions.

In case you have yourself been on a desert island for the last several years I should tell you that Richard Hatch did not pay federal income tax on his one million dollar prize for being the top survivor, along with some other income.  He was convicted of willfully attempting to evade income taxes and filing a false return.  So he is appealing.  The basis for his appeal is the punch line so you will have to wait.

Mr. Hatch's execution of his plan to evade taxes couldn't have been worse.  He hired someone to prepare his return including all his income.  He then asked the same prepare to prepare another "hypothetical return" that didn't include the income.  Guess which one he filed ?

Wallis testified inter alia that she worked on Hatch's returns for 2000 and 2001; the 2000 tax return she prepared included his $1 million Survivor winnings; at Hatch's request she subsequently prepared a “hypothetical” tax return for 2000 omitting the $1 million winnings, but she instructed him not to file it and he signed a written acknowledgment that the hypothetical return was not to be filed.

Then there is his primary defense.  Somebody else promised to pay his taxes for him.

According to Hatch, one of his principal defenses at trial was that Burnett had promised CBS or SEG would pay all taxes on his Survivor winnings in response to Hatch's complaints regarding incidents of cheating during the Survivor show's filming.

So what is his basis for appeal ? Ineffective assistance of counsel.

(1) ineffective assistance of his counsel due to his trial counsel's failure (a) to effectively cross-examine certain government witnesses; and (b) to adequately dispute the Government's calculation of the tax loss and the obstruction-of-justice sentence enhancement; (2) ineffective assistance of counsel in failing to adequately argue certain issues on appeal; (3) sentencing errors by the Court due to miscalculating the tax loss resulting from Hatch's offenses and improperly assessing an obstruction of justice enhancement for perjury; and (4) a claim of “freestanding actual innocence.”

His appeal was denied with the following comment:

Hatch's approach appears to be that if he reiterates long enough and loud enough his misguided belief that he is innocent of his tax offenses, his claims may somehow be deemed true. He is mistaken. As the First Circuit noted, the record contains compelling evidence of Hatch's guilt on the offenses for which he was convicted.

I do have to give Mr. Hatch credit for not using the Steve Martin defense ("I forgot").  Also winning the $1,000,000 in the first place was an achievement.  In case you are wondering about the qualities that got him to the final round of Survivor, they were by his own report self-awareness, observation of relationships, and ethics.

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