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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Frank Hatley, 50, failed to pay child support in the state of Georgia. But he was no deadbeat dad: the child in question wasn’t his. Worse: the special assistant state attorney general knew that, and the judge in the case knew it too. Hatley tried valiantly to pay the state the money it said he owed. Even after he lost his job and was homeless, he gave the state a portion of his unemployment benefits — even though DNA tests proved the boy wasn’t his. Once the DNA test results came in, Cook County Superior Court Judge Dane Perkins ruled Hatley didn’t have to pay future support costs, but ordered he continue paying toward what he owed from before the tests came in. After paying at least $9,500 toward the debt, Hatley fell behind in the payments when he lost his job; Judge Perkins ordered Hatley to jail. After more than a year, the sheriff where Hatley was jailed finally asked a lawyer to represent him, and with her help Hatley has been freed. Once the story hit newspapers the state asked Judge Perkins to waive the old debt, but he has not yet ruled. (RC/Atlanta Journal-Constitution) ...Let’s go for real justice: Judge Perkins should pay it out of his state salary.
Story Update: The next month, Judge Perkins “allowed the state Office of Child Support Services to close its case,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Sarah Geraghty, Hatley’s lawyer from the Southern Center for Human Rights, “expressed satisfaction” over the ruling, though it wasn’t reported whether the state returned the money he had paid (or compensated him for his year-plus in jail). The newspaper noted that the state Department of Human Services “began reviewing child-support cases to make sure no one else is in a similar position,” and “also said it will propose legislation next year to make sure what happened to Hatley will not happen again.”
Original Publication Date: 02 August 2009
This story is in True’s book collections, in Volume 16.

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