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January 25, 2006

Richard Hatch, the Survivor guy, stands convicted of evading $365,000 of tax. In addition to 15 minutes of fame, he's likely to get more than 15 minutes in prison to ponder his next move. While newspaper accounts say he faces up to 13 years in prison, the real sentence will be based on the federal sentencing guidelines for tax crimes.

I have gone to the tables to try to rough out his likely sentence. I'm not even a lawyer, much less a judge, but the way I read the guidelines, a sentence of somewhere from 27 months to 41 months may be indicated. I guess it will be on the higher end of the scale.

According to the tax loss table below (on page 4 of the linked guidelines), the $365,000 loss with no prior criminal history gets Mr. Hatch to offense level 18. He gets no points off for cooperation or acceptance of responsibility.

Tax Loss Table

He may get two points added for "sophisticated means" - namely the use of an S corporation to park his talk show income. It's my understanding that even ineffective or inept use of shell entities may be considered "sophisticated" for this purpose. That would take him to offense level 20.

If offense level 18 applies, the guidelines call for 27-33 months in prison. At level 20, he faces 33 to 41 months. Assuming that he gets the extra points for sophistication, I'm guessing 36 months.
While these guidelines aren't mandatory anymore, I understand that judges go along with them for the most part.

Tax Sentencing Table excerpt

I invite any real lawyers in the crowd to chime in with your comments.

More on the guidelines here.

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I'm glad I'm just on the "hook 'em and book 'em" end of the spectrum. What happens to them after that doesn't concern me. I did my job, though I am almost always disappointed in the punishment dealt to the offender. Well, except for Murder 1 cases.

It's much better to be on you end of the system than Mr. Hatch's!

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