PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Reality TV star Richard Hatch asked a federal appeals court on Thursday to throw out a nine-month prison sentence handed down earlier this year for failing to pay taxes on the $1 million he won of the first season of the hit CBS show "Survivor."
In a brief filed in the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, Hatch's attorney says a lower court overlooked several factors in finding that he violated the terms of his supervised release by failing to file amended tax returns for 2000 and 2001.
Hatch, who is being held in a West Virginia federal prison, spent more than three years in prison for tax evasion. He was released in 2009 and ordered to refile his 2000 and 2001 taxes and pay what he owed. U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith ruled in March that Hatch never did and returned him to prison.
The Newport resident wants the appeals panel to order the lower court to toss out of the case or order further hearings.
His appeal argues that the violation finding and prison sentence did not take into account his cooperation with an Internal Revenue Service audit. Hatch also says the lower court overlooked tax court proceedings he launched to contest the IRS demands. He argues the IRS cannot act on amended tax returns while a case is pending in tax court.
"This deprivation of liberty, under these circumstances, was unnecessary," wrote defense attorney Mary S. McElroy. "Mr. Hatch had filed initial tax returns as required by law. He cooperated fully in the IRS audit process. ... He was contesting the notification of deficiency in tax court."
McElroy is on vacation and could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.
Hatch also argues he should not have been declared a violator because he had no way of filing amended returns without accepting amounts he was contesting in tax court. He says the nine-month sentence imposed is unreasonable and exceeded prosecutors' recommendations by three months.
Hatch's legal troubles began in 2005 when he was named in a 10-count indictment charging him with tax evasion and various acts of wire and mail fraud. He was convicted of two counts of tax evasion and one count of filing a false tax return after a 10-day trial in 2006.
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