May 17, 2006 — -- "Survivor" winner Richard Hatch might want to rethink his affinity for recreational nudity as he heads off for more than four years in federal prison.
Several legal experts gave practical advice to Hatch, the reality show's first million-dollar prize winner, after he was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison for failing to pay taxes on the $327,000 he earned as co-host of a Boston radio show and $28,000 in rent on property he owned.
"He might want to reconsider the whole clothing-optional thing," said criminal defense lawyer and ABC Radio host Ron Kuby, referring to Hatch's penchant for not wearing clothes while competing on the show. When the show aired in 2000, producers had to obscure his bare bottom, and talk show host David Letterman dubbed him "the naked fat guy."
Hatch, who became one of the first reality show stars, left a federal courthouse in Newport, R.I., on Tuesday in an orange prison jumpsuit.
"See you later, Mom," he called out to the courthouse spectator's gallery, where several family members were seated.
"There's no nice way to say it, Mr. Hatch lied," said U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres, who believed that Hatch gave false testimony during his trial in January.
Even at sentencing, Hatch maintained that he'd been "completely truthful and completely forthcoming throughout the entire process." At his trial, the 45-year-old defendant claimed he forgot to tell his accountants about some income and claimed he thought radio show producers would pay taxes on his earnings.
With Hatch now looking at a release date in 2010, he'll be playing the ultimate "Survivor" game -- and the competition will be unlike anything he faced on TV. While officials have yet to determine where he'll serve time, criminal justice experts offered the following advice:
1. Don't Brag: Hatch is a notorious showman, but his "Survivor" celebrity is likely to irk other prisoners. "There's a pervasive belief that reality TV isn't all that real and prisoners are very big on credibility," said Kuby.
"Inmates aren't going to be impressed that he was the toughest guy on some TV island game show. The last thing Hatch should want is to be tested."
2. If a Guard Asks for an Autograph, Give It: Hatch should be clear with officials that he won't ask for special privileges, but he should also be accommodating. "The last thing he wants to do is come across as arrogant," said Gino Brogdon, a former Superior Court judge in Fulton County, Ga., who is now a trial attorney.
"He should be cooperative, but if he accepts special treatment, the other prisoners will hate him for it and make his life hell."
Prison guards are not supposed to ask celebrity inmates for autographs, but they sometimes do. And if that happens, Brogdon recommends that Hatch should just go with the flow.
3. Don't Tell People Why You're in Prison: Even in minimum-security prisons, tax evaders don't get too much respect. "It's a wimpy crime, low on the food chain in the prison culture, and not likely to make him a star," said Harvey Levin, a legal reporter for "The People's Court" and managing editor of entertainment Web site TMZ.com.
As a newcomer, Hatch's best bet is to figure out which inmates wield power, "and glom on to them" Levin said.
"If he tries the double-dealing that worked so well for him on 'Survivor,' it's going to be disastrous … He won't be competing to win a million dollars, he'll lose something far more valuable."
4. Keep Your Shirt On: Being an avowed nudist made him a standout on "Survivor," but in prison, nudism is not a lifestyle he's likely to enjoy. "He might just think of his prison uniform as a second skin," Brogdon said.
If Hatch needs a new hobby, he might be best served by keeping a journal, Brogdon said. "It's useful when you need to show you've learned something. He has to work toward behavior that could earn him an early release. And this is a ghoulish world in many respects. It might be something he could publish."
5. As Soon as You Get Out, Call Mark Burnett: Hatch isn't necessarily through with reality TV. Mark Burnett -- the man who created "Survivor" -- also put Martha Stewart in "The Apprentice" when she got out of prison.
"Burnett is really the common thread -- the Kevin Bacon, if you will -- between Stewart and Hatch. He should give him a call as soon as he gets out and see what his career options are," says Levin.
"Of course, we don't know if Burnett will take the call."