I am definitely not a fan of reality television, and I do not recall ever watching an episode of “Survivor”… at least I will not admit to it in public. Through the tabloids and media, however, I am aware that Richard Hatch, the initial $1 million winner of “Survivor” had been having disputes and problems with the Internal Revenue Service regarding taxes he was supposed to pay on his million dollar winnings. Hatch has already spent three years in jail for these tax related issues, and without them being resolved, the meter has continued to run. As it now stands, with interest and penalty, Hatch owes the IRS two million dollars ($2,000,000.00), which amounts to twice the total of his initial winnings, and he has recently reported to prison to begin a nine month sentence for failing to pay back taxes.
To me it seems like Mr. Hatch is being treated cruelly, at best. Maybe someone in the IRS is homophobic (Richard Hatch is the gay contestant who frequently competed in the nude during the televised event). Regardless of his sexual orientation or propensity to bare it all, the treatment he received by the IRS seems draconian and excessive.
Another celebrity who has been at odds with the IRS is Wesley Snipes, who is currently serving a three year sentence for failing to pay taxes. According to news articles, Mr. Snipes owed $2.7 million on income of $13.8 million earned during a three year period. Surely the IRS has ways to collect the income owed from citizens who are reluctant to pay taxes. Why not do so? Why is the penalty against Snipes so extreme and punitive? According to prosecutors for the IRS, they wanted to send a message to deter others from trying to obstruct the IRS.
Evidently, the message the prosecutors are trying to send with the Snipes prosecution is not getting through, because Duke Lacrosse defendant Reade Seligmann was accused of not paying taxes on the $20 million windfall that resulted from a successful shakedown of Duke University in 2007. According to a lien filed recently, Seligmann owes approximately $6.7 million in taxes on the settlement earnings which stemmed from the Duke Lacrosse case. (Currently Seligmann, along with the other Carpetbagger families and their attorneys are still in litigation trying to wrest $10 million each from the cash-strapped city of Durham. They had erroneously concluded after Duke easily rolled over and gave them the $20 mil, that getting Durham to settle for half that amount would be a piece of cake… however, it did not quite work out that way.)
The question I have is why is Hatch serving a nine month sentence, after being locked away for three years already for not paying taxes on $1 million, and Snipes serving a three year sentence for not paying taxes on $13.8 million, when Reade Seligmann is not being tossed into prison for three years for not paying taxes on 2007 income of $20 million? All the IRS did to Mr. Seligmann was apply a lien, which evidently amounts to a rare deal. Why was this action not applied to Hatch or Snipes when their tax payments were not forthcoming?
Don’t get me wrong, for I’m not suggesting that Seligmann be tossed in the brink for evading taxes, but my position is that Hatch and Snipes should not be incarcerated for their tax-related sins. Hatch, for one, will probably never be able to satisfy the $2 million tax debt he now owes, and which is growing. Is the IRS going to continually keep putting him in the slammer for being unable to come up with the dough? There is a simple solution, however, for Mr. Hatch, who has been a contestant on another TV reality show, “Celebrity Apprentice.” Have Donald Trump pay the amount Hatch owes to the IRS in full. Surely Mr. Trump can afford to do so. Then the Donald can work out a schedule for Richard Hatch to re-pay him that is far more lenient than that of the IRS. With regards to Mr. Snipes, he should be released so that he can make another “Blade” movie… or other movie, and he can designate that his salary goes towards satisfying obligations to the IRS. It would be a much more constructive option for all involved. Currently taxpayers are footing the bill for his accommodations behind bars, Snipes’ talents are languishing, and the public is being deprived of enjoying his performances… not unlike the public being deprived of enjoying the pugilistic prowess of Muhammad Ali when he was barred from boxing at the height of his career because of trifeness.
I’m no historian, but I believe that using tax evasion as a means of incarcerating individuals began with the Chi-town gangster Al Capone. It is obvious that Richard Hatch and Wesley Snipes are not violent criminals from whom the public at large needs protection. They do not deserve to be treated like Scarface. They should, instead, be treated like Reade Seligmann… in other words, fairly. Allow them their freedom so that they can be productive, employed citizens able to work towards paying taxes they may owe. Although Richard Hatch, an openly gay man who enjoys traipsing around in the buff, and Wesley Snipes, an African American with a militant streak may not be media darlings like Reade Seligmann, they should be treated equally and justly.
Note: below is a link to the latest installment (Part 12 of 17) of Episode V of “The MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper.” Be sure to visit the site for Commentary, Insights, and Analysis which follows the comic strip, to get the best educational value. At the end of the commentary is a link for feedback. Enjoy.