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Richard Hatch Can't Win

From Tribal Council to taxes to Trump, trouble seems to follow the Machiavellian reality-TV competitor. Andy Dehnart on the long, strange case of the Survivor who started it all.

05.19.11 11:08 PM ET

Richard Hatch is now on his third reality-TV show. He is also in prison, again.

After winning the first season of CBS' Survivor, he went on to compete in that series' all-star edition, and then on to Bravo's Battle of the Network Reality Stars and, now, The Celebrity Apprentice. While he was fired during its fifth episode, he has returned for its final two episodes to help Marlee Matlin complete her final task and possibly win the show's prize for her charity.

How did Richard Hatch go from the brilliant and naked strategist on the beaches of Borneo to a man who's repeatedly been behind bars? Here's an overview of Hatch's 11 years of highs and lows.

August 20, 2000

Richard Hatch becomes Survivor's first $1 million winner, surprising viewers with his game-changing alliance strategy and helping to transform television by proving that unscripted TV can be even more entertaining, dramatic, and unpredictable than scripted television. More than 51 million people watched his victory; by comparison, the highest-rated American Idol finale ever was Season Two, which drew 38 million viewers.

August 28, 2000

Second-degree child-abuse charges against Hatch are dropped, stemming from an April arrest after which Hatch's 9-year-old adopted son was removed from his home by Rhode Island's Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

October 2000

Hatch's 101 Survival Secrets: How to Make $1,000,000, Lose 100 Pounds, and Just Plain Live Happily is released, after an initial book deal fell through because he was contractually prohibited from writing about his experiences on Survivor. ( Survivor's cast contract says on page 11 that contestants may never "prepare or assist in the preparation of any written work ... that depicts, concerns, or relates in any way" to the show.)

December 2000

Richard Hatch is named one of People magazine's most-intriguing people, capping off months of media appearances including a guest-hosting gig on Live With Regis and presenting at the MTV Video Music Awards.

January 2001

Hatch tapes a pilot for NBC's version of The Weakest Link, though the U.K. version's host, Anne Robinson, gets the job; Hatch later appears on the show.

In a December 2006 appeal, Hatch and his lawyer claim a judge wouldn't permit them to present evidence that Hatch caught other Survivor contestants cheating, and Burnett bought Hatch's silence by agreeing to pay his taxes on his prize money.

February 2001

Survivor contestant Stacey Stillman sues CBS and executive producer Mark Burnett, claiming the game was rigged. In March, she told Dateline NBC that Burnett told the Survivor jury, “Rich played the game better.”

June 2001

Hatch appears on Sally Jessy Raphael's Father's Day episode with his son, explaining that the child-abuse charges and arrest stemmed from a “brilliant story” his son made up because he didn't want to exercise

August 22, 2001

Hatch is arrested on charges of domestic assault on his son's caretaker, who the police report said “had been involved in a [sic] intimate relationship” with Hatch. His scheduled appearance on the TV dating show Blind Date is postponed.

February 2002

After being convicted of assault and sentenced to a year of probation on Sept. 24, 2001, Hatch is exonerated after a court overturns that decision, agreeing that the caretaker was trespassing on Hatch's property.

October 2003

Gawker reveals Hatch has a profile on the gay dating website Big Muscle Bears, which states: “I’m happy, healthy, and single, but I prefer partnership. I’m looking to intimately share life with a bold, intelligent, integrous man. Sexually, I’m versatile (really).”

November-December 2003

Hatch films Survivor All-Stars in Panama's Pearl Islands.

March 2004

On the fifth episode of Survivor All-Stars, Hatch became the first person voted out of his tribe. On the sixth episode, Season One cast member Sue Hawk quits saying she was "sexually violated, humiliated, dehumanized and totally spent" after a naked Hatch rubbed against her during a challenge in the previous episode. The next morning, the two appear on The Early Show and say they've talked about the incident; Hatch says he was "clueless" about the distress it caused Hawk.

November 2004

Hatch appears on a Dr. Phil episode titled "Pedophiles: A Parent's Worst Nightmare" to publicly discuss how his 14-year-old had been having phone sex with a 28-year-old, who was arrested after police found Hatch's son at his house. Hatch told Dr. Phil that he taped his son's phone calls, and also admitted on TV that his adopted son was molested by his prostitute mother's johns

January 18, 2005

Hatch is charged with two counts of federal tax evasion, including for not paying taxes on his $1 million Survivor prize. Hatch reportedly agreed to a non-binding plea agreement and prosecutors said they'd seek less than the five years in prison and a $250,000 fine per charge.

March 3, 2005

Hatch backs out of the plea agreement and the U.S. attorney announces the case will go to a grand jury. Hatch later appears on Today to tell Katie Couric that he thought “the taxes on that particular amount were going to be paid either by CBS or withheld by them.” His lawyer says CBS was obligated to withhold taxes.

Sept. 8, 2005

Hatch is indicted by the grand jury, and he is charged with eight additional felonies, including wire, mail, and bank fraud.

January 2006

The jury trial begins. Mark Burnett testifies against Hatch, whose lawyer insists “he is the world's worst bookkeeper.” But his actual bookkeeper/accountant tells the court he had her prepare a tax return without his Survivor winnings to see what that'd be like, and filed that one, even though she told him he had to include his winnings.

January 25, 2006

The jury finds Hatch guilty of tax evasion and filing a false tax return; the jury deliberated for six hours. He's taken to jail to await sentencing; his attorney later reveals that he requested to be held in protective custody because of his celebrity status.

May 16, 2006

Hatch is sentenced to 51 months in prison and three years of probation for the charges and perjury; the judge says Hatch is “in denial” about his lying.

July 28, 2006

Another Gay Movie opens and features a full-frontal naked cameo by Hatch, who days earlier was sent to a federal prison in Oklahoma.

August 2006

Hatch tells a reporter that being in prison with inmates who know him is “an interesting experience” and that the other inmates have questions about Survivor.

December 2006

Hatch and his lawyer appeal the conviction, claiming the judge wouldn't permit them to present evidence that Hatch caught other Survivor contestants cheating, and Burnett bought Hatch's silence by agreeing to pay his taxes on his prize money.

January 2007

The First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agrees to hear the case. In a court brief, Hatch's lawyer writes, “How absurd, that Hatch would think he didn’t owe taxes on his $1 million! But, given the opportunity to explain why, in the first place, Hatch had the idea that his taxes would be paid — a behind-the-scenes deception on the Survivor show tantamount to an attempt to rig the contest, and a subsequent agreement proposed by Burnett — and Hatch’s belief would have appeared more reasonable and truthful to the jury."

February 2008

The appeals court denies Hatch's appeal, saying that "the failure of Hatch to present any evidence of such conversations when invited by the court strongly suggested that no actual promises were made, and no such ‘deal’ actually existed. It was not the court’s right, much less duty, to put words in Hatch’s mouth."

October 15, 2008

The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Hatch's appeal.

March 2009

Hatch requests to be released from prison, and, representing himself in court, says in a filing that his "portrayal on Survivor and his media-concocted caricature continue to unfairly bleed into legal proceedings and wield unjust influence.”

April 2009

Hatch requests to serve his May 12 supervised release in Argentina, where his husband is from. He also says he wants to be able to appear on Survivor again.

Aug. 18, 2009

While under house arrest for the final months of his sentence, Hatch appears on Today and says he was targeted by the prosecutor and discriminated against by the judge for being gay. He also says, “Whatever they assess, I’m going to pay. Whatever is owed, I will pay.”

He is then re-arrested for talking to the media without permission, and taken back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.

Oct. 16, 2009

Hatch is finally released from prison.

January 9, 2010 Attending the 10th anniversary party for Survivor in Los Angeles, Hatch tells AfterElton.com that he "in the midst of being exonerated … for everything."

October 2010

Hatch is identified as one of the celebrities filming the fourth 
season of NBC's Celebrity Apprentice, which is also produced by Survivor executive producer Mark Burnett, and will debut in the 
spring.

January 10, 2011

Hatch is found guilty of violating his probation by not amending his tax returns or paying his taxes.

March 11, 2011

Hatch is sentenced to another nine months in prison—three months longer than the recommended sentence—and then 26 months of supervised release.

March 14, 2011

Hatch goes back to prison, first writing on Facebook that this was " flagrantly unjust" and explaining in a detailed post that the judge "(apparently overwhelmed with other case work) appeared not to have researched the case nor understood the facts and accepted prosecutors’ lies."

April 3, 2011

Without big, rich friends like his fellow competitors, Hatch struggles to compete in a fundraising task on Celebrity Apprentice. Donald Trump fires Hatch because "he raised no money."

May 15, 2011

Hatch re-joins Apprentice on its second-to-last episode. He is still in prison.

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Andy Dehnart is a writer, TV critic, and editor of reality blurred. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter.