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Are Blacks More Likely Than Whites To Receive Stiff Punishment in Child-Support Cases?

"Tribal punishment  - Perth" by publik15 on flickr

"Tribal punishment - Perth" by publik15 on flickr

Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

Three current or former professional athletes have been in the news recently for alleged failure to pay child support. All three happen to be black, and all three faced the threat of arrest.

Ted Rollins, a member of one of America’s wealthiest families and the subject of several posts here at Legal Schnauzer, has a history of failing to pay child support. In fact, public documents show that Rollins has been late with child-support payments for months on end–and it isn’t clear that he has ever made some payments. Ted Rollins happens to be white, and we see no sign that he ever has been seriously threatened with arrest.

That raises this troubling question: Are blacks more likely than whites to face serious consequences for failure to pay child support? The story of “Ted Rollins and the three athletes” indicates the answer is yes.

Ted Rollins’ advantages might go beyond skin color. He is the CEO of Campus Crest Communities, a Charlotte-based company that became a Wall Street darling when it completed a $380-million IPO in late 2010.  Rollins has strong political connections, with his stepmother and late father both having run for public office as Republicans. As if Rollins didn’t have enough money on his own, his family owns Orkin Pest Control and other enterprises. Rollins’ connections apparently helped him obtain an extraordinarily advantageous (and unlawful) outcome in a divorce case with his former wife, Alabama resident Sherry Carroll Rollins.

So perhaps our question should be this: If you are white, fabulously rich, and have deep connections to Wall Street and the Republican Party, are you likely to receive gentle treatment when you fail to pay child support?

The answer appears to be yes–and we feel certain that would be of interest to Andre Rison, Terrell Owens, and Jimmy King. They are the three athletes with child-support troubles, and officials did not seem willing to let them skirt the law, as apparently happened in the Ted Rollins case. Here are the athletes’ stories:

Andre Rison–A former wide receiver with the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers, Rison was indicted last week by a federal grand jury on one count of failure to pay child support. The case became a federal matter because Rison lives in Michigan and the child lives in Arizona.

Terrell Owens–Most recently with the Cincinnati Bengals, Owens long has been one of the NFL’s most flamboyant and productive receivers. A product of Alexander City, Alabama, Owens faced charges in late June that he was failing to pay the full amount of his child support. The child’s mother sought to have Owens held in contempt of court, but the case was resolved after Owens reportedly paid the amount owed.

Jimmy King–A member of the University of Michigan’s famed “Fab Five” in the early 1990s, King went on to play for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors. He was arrested in early August on charges of failing to pay $17,000 in child support and ignoring repeated warnings to get back on schedule.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is leading the case against King, indicating the state is bringing out the heavy artillery. From an Associated Press article:

Authorities have been working since 2008 to get King to get up to date with the payments, said Schuette spokesman John Sellek. He said King ignored more than a month’s worth of messages to come in and face the charges. Sellek said he couldn’t identify the child.

Investigators tracked King to a basketball camp at a northwest Detroit church and arrested him there Tuesday, Sellek said.

When it comes to child support, you have to play by the rules, no matter who you are,” Schuette said in a statement.

Is that last statement true, that everyone has to play by the rules when it comes to child support? Our research indicates it certainly is not true in the case of Ted Rollins. And that apparently goes both for the payment of child support and the amount of child support imposed by a court.

For example, let’s compare Ted Rollins’ child-support payments to those of Terrell Owens. After 15 seasons in the National Football League, Owens undoubtedly has made a nice living. He made $2 million last year, and that qualifies him as wealthy by most any standard. But it’s doubtful that he is anywhere near Ted Rollins’ league financially. Rollins’ current venture, Campus Crest Communities, generated a $380-million IPO on Wall Street–and there is no telling how much money Rollins has received from Orkin and other family enterprises.

Surely Ted Rollins pays more than Terrell Owens in child support, right? Well, not exactly. (And don’t call me Shirley.)

According to news reports, Owens pays $5,000 a month for one child. Ted Rollins has two daughters, now ages 17 and 13, and both residing in the Birmingham area. How much does Ted Rollins pay in child support, as ordered by Shelby County, Alabama, Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson? The answer is $815 a month–and, we repeat, that’s for two children.

In other words, Ted Rollins pays less than one-fifth what Terrell Owens pays–for twice as many children.

Wonder how our “justice system” might try to explain that one. Wonder how the lawyers involved in both cases would try to explain that one. Perhaps we will give them an opportunity.

Does race play a factor in child-support cases? The only answer we can come up with is, “It sure as hell does!”

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