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Are Blacks More Likely Than Whites to Face Stiff Penalties in Child-Support Cases?

By       Message Roger Shuler     Permalink
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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 (photo above), 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:

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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.

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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.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)

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