The AJC has an interesting and disturbing story about Frank Hatley who was ordered to serve time for failing to pay child support for a son that was not his.
Here’s how the story begins:
Frank Hatley has languished in a South Georgia jail for more than a year.
The reason? He failed to reimburse the state for all the public assistance his “son” received over the past two decades.
The problem? Hatley is not the biological father — and a special assistant state attorney general and a judge knew it but jailed Hatley anyway.
This is one of the few situations where the involvement of a lawyer actually helped. According to the story, only after a sheriff spoke to an attorney on Mr. Hatley’s behalf, did this story come to light. And, let’s admit it, airing the story in the court of public opinion is often if not more important than trying it in a court of law. After all, Mr. Hatley cycled through several attorneys, some of whom actually aided him in material aspects of the case, but nevertheless failed to resolve the critical issue of why he remained in jail despite not having done anything illegal. This story was also picked up over at Simple Justice, here.
Today, however, Mr. Hatley was finally released from jail, with the aid of his new attorney, Sarah Gerahty from the Southern Center for Human Rights. Mr. Hatley’s sentiment post-release?
“Out of it all, I just feel like justice should be served for me in this case. I shouldn’t have to keep being punished for a child that is not mine.”
I spent 20 years in the US Army from Oct 1975 to Nov 1995 as an infantry solder and retired as a Sergeant First Class. I had 5 honorable discharges and at no time in my life was I ever in trouble and I was never arrested for anything! My wife and I married Feb 1971 and divorced Aug 1995. She convinced me that we would get back together and while all this was going on I was retiring and trying to start a new career. I signed the divorce decree without a lawyer seeing it. We agreed to equal property division, each of us will keep our own individual vehicles and I would pay child support until my daughter turned 18 in Dec 1995, as long as she lived with her mother. She told me she did not want any part of my military retirement, but GA law required it to be in the divorce decree.
1. March 96 (Case #96-V-064) A court summons read as follows: Defendant’s Motion (Larry Driver) for a continuance is denied. That the Defendant is in willful contempt of Court and is in arrears for child support in the amount of $1,400.00 as of March 6, 1996, and is in arrears $3,300.00 for payment of one-half (1/2) of his Army retirement to the Plaintiff. That the Defendant has repeatedly harassed the Plaintiff by calling her, threatening her, coming about her home and her work place. That the Defendant has caused and/or has acted in concert with the Pentagon Federal Credit Union to repossess Plaintiff’s 1995 Isuzu Rodeo vehicle. The fact is she didn’t make the payments on her vehicle, then sold my vehicle and the used that money to refinance her vehicle back. I received in the mail a summons to appear in court for contempt of court.
At the time of my summons I was living in my home in Richmond Hill GA. After talking to two lawyers and trying to find a job Judge Albert Rahn of Pembroke GA refused me a continuance to find a lawyer. The reason that my continuance was denied was because my former spouse’s attorney stated I had been served on 6 March but I had not gotten the summons in my mailbox until two days before the court date of March 28 1996. Judge Rahn put me in jail for 30 days as the hearing was going on charged with non-support of a child over 18. My daughter had been living with me until Thanksgiving Day 1995.
The judge awarded my former spouse and her new husband all that I had after the divorce decree. There are no transcripts as to what was said in court because I was told no one stated they wanted a copy. I was never asked if I wanted a court reporter I was not in arrears for non-payment of child support or my retirement pay. She had told me, she didn’t want my retirement. So I didn’t worry about it. She then told me that it had to be included in the divorce. She reported to the courts that my 18-year-old daughter was enrolled in school, which was a determining factor for child support. She admitted in a later court case that she had in fact lied about that. I didn’t start getting my retirement until Nov 95 and for whatever reason out of my control the court orders were not sent to the Department of the Army. The court order started in March 95. I was unaware that a court order for her to get ½ of my retirement had been declared until I received my monthly statement from the department of finance in March 95. According to the court I had had 30 days to appeal that decision but seeing that the judge had put me in jail (as stated before) for 30 days, the window allowing me to appeal had already closed and I was not present nor represented by counsel.
2. My right to appeal all this was 30 days, the same time I was in jail. I did not know my former spouse had gotten any of my retirement until after I was released and I found a letter in the mailbox from Department of the Army (DFAS). While locked up, I was charged with taking a radar detector from her vehicle while. I was locked up at the time of the theft, so I could not take it or anything else. Then her landlord was appointed as my court appointed attorney. I did not know at the time that my attorney was her landlord until Nov 96 when I met her for the first time while in Chatham County jail. This charge was dropped two years later while I was in prison. The charges were dropped in Jan 1998 after I sent a blistering letter about being in prison after the judge awarded my former spouse my vehicle and then giving it back to me AFTER it was sold. I was never compensated for the sale of the vehicle.
3. April 96. After I was released from jail she claimed I was calling her but it never happened. I was arrested again two days later and had to post a $300 bond. After the radar case was dropped I had to write again and one month later while in prison the $300.00 bond money was returned to me. I asked the jailer what would prevent my ex from locking me up weekly. He drove me to see an attorney. I hired an attorney to help me, but after six weeks he did nothing.
4. June 96. I saw the vehicle, cut two tires and smashed the windshield. I was arrested and refused bond by the court. I had to sell my home while in jail for what was owed to keep it from foreclosure.
5. Jan 97, While I was still in jail, Judge Rahn said he “overstepped his bounds” and as stated above awarded me back the vehicle via another court order. My ex and her new husband had already sold it in Aug 96.
6. Feb 97, (Case # CR-970186-BA) Judge Frank Bass said I took the law into my own hands and sentenced me to 3 to 5 years in prison for smashing the windshield and slashing the tires. No mention in the court transcripts that she married her boss two weeks after his divorce and they had their landlord as my court appointed attorney.
A lot of things happened to me while in prison but one of the most memorable was the guards telling me I had to give them permission to destroy my military ID and drivers license. They pushed a form in front of me to sign and I said, “Say that again.” They repeated the request: I just laughed and walked away. Another happened when I wrote Dept of the Army and told them I had died. The warden, Tony Howerton got the retirement started somehow and was transferred to another prison!
7. June 99, on the day I was released from prison I was put on a bus by a police officer and sent to Washington DC with nothing but the clothes on my back. I had to sleep in the streets.
8. June 99, I made my way to Colorado where my oldest daughter lived and established residency in that state. I sent out numerous e-mails to the FBI all asking if what had transpired was legal, can anyone assists and what can I do. When I changed the title of the e-mail I was told by the FBI to stop writing the e-mails. I complied.
9. Aug 99, I received a phone call and an electronic device was used to disguise a voice saying something about paying $100,000 and my retirement. That was all I could make out.
10. Nov 99. (Case # 99-402-S) The FBI arrested me on Veterans Day and charged me with making terrorist threats in my emails. Federal Judge Daniel Sparr of Colorado said this was the most bizarre case he had ever heard. After three days I was convicted on two counts and sentenced to six months in a half way house and two years federal probation. It should be noted that I never said I did not write the e-mails. In my emails I asked, “What do I have to do to get some one to listen to me, blow up a federal building?” The judge ruled that I had not made a threat, but asked a question. I admitted that I had written the emails and used what was considered poor judgment but that it was out of desperation. It took a jury 3 days to come to an agreement. It was felt that a half way house with counseling was best for me. I did everything that I was court ordered to do.
11. Dec 99, Judge Frank Bass put an arrest warrant on me not to have me arrested but to keep me out of the state of Georgia. If I go back there I will be in jail yet again. I can only think that all those e-mails hit some one that wanted this to end as evidenced by the phone call,
12. While living in the half way house, I filed a $100 million lawsuit in a Federal Court in Georgia over the legality of this entire situation but it did not meet rule 32 which states it has to go in front of the judge originally assigned to the case, Judge Rahn. I did receive a letter from the Georgia Attorney General’s Office that gave immunity to Judge Bass. The reason that he was granted immunity was that the complaint against Judge Bass was over cruel and unusual punishment. My lawyer stated during the trial that Judge Bass had given a man who beat his girlfriend and stole her car, time served. I filed against Judge Rahn for car theft, loss of the value of the vehicle and since he represented the state, the willful denial of my right to a lawyer and abuse of his position. I also filed my first of two complaints to the Judicial Qualification Commission in GA. The Judicial complaint was basically the same as the lawsuit. It was dismissed for “lack of merit.”
13. Sometime in 2000 I found an attorney that would represent me in Georgia, Jack Struthers. He was paid $2500 cash and when the court date came up and after paying for my hotel room and transportation and getting permission, my attorney calls me as I was packing to tell me that I cannot go to Georgia because I have to wait until the arrest warrant expires. He informed me that he had numerous conversations with Judge Bass, but did not specify what was said.
14. 2002 (Case#2001-V-033) My attorney tells me I have another court date in GA to modify the original divorce decree over the retirement issue as that was all that was left and after going through the drill of hotel accommodations and transportation, I had a meeting the night prior to the court date with Frank Struthers. All I wanted was the courts to modify the divorce orders, giving me all of my Army retirement. We discussed what we are going to present to the court, yet when we appeared in court all of what we discussed changed. My lawyer and her attorney both “disappeared” for a while and I started to get suspicious. Judge Rahn has an office downstairs and then Judge Robert Russell calls a break and he disappears. It may be nothing but I started to suspect something is not right. My attorney allowed nothing that I wanted to say to be heard in court but my former spouse did admit to perjury and that she may have told me that state law said the retirement must be in the divorce. Judge Robert Russell then threw out my motion. At the court doorsteps, Mr. Struthers said to me that he has to practice law after this case was over! My lawyer also stated that Judge Bass has barred me from the Chatham Court House and the Georgia Attorney General’s Office stated that judges do this all the time?
15. All thru this I received letters from bill collectors pertaining to bills that was to be paid by my ex. She had filed for bankruptcy while I was imprisoned and left me with all the bills. Just because a person is divorced does not relieve that person from the debt. Your name is still on the contract, same with bankruptcy. One man said I had the lowest credit score he had ever seen!
16. 2004, I contacted the GA Attorney General’s Office yet again and submitted my second complaint with the Judicial Qualification Commission because I felt that all three Judges Rahn, Bass and Russell were trying to keep this out of the court system because I was charging them with conspiracy and obstruction of justice. I received a call on a Sunday noon MST from the GA Attorney General’s Office asking me what I wanted I asked how can GA throw me out of the state and then…Goodbye Mr. Driver. I called the Commission and talked to the director of the commission Cheryl Custer. She said fraud, conspiracy, conflicts of interest, perjury, judicial misconduct and obstruction of justice and all was legal and there was no other resource to complain about judges or their decisions. Judges answer to no one and can do as they see fit. The GA and Atlanta Bar said there is no lawyer in the state “qualified” to handle your case.
17. March 2008, after getting more and more bills from creditors over the divorce, I stopped my retirement for five months, but my present wife begged me to get it started again because I was tired of seeing one-half of my retirement go to my ex. I foolishly thought that I would do without my half if only her half would also stop. I had telephoned the department of the Army and reported myself dead to stop this systemic robbery. SEE NOTE 19
18. Aug 2008, I did all the legwork and got the retirement started again. My ex was paid over $3000 in back pay. The back pay that she received was for the five months that I had it stopped.
19. Oct 2008, I received a court summons from GA that charges me with contempt of court for the unpaid retirement. How can I be charged with contempt of court for unpaid retirement when the retirement was paid back, I cannot answer…. I would like to be able to explain how and why Georgia courts can and do the things they do, but I can’t. I couldn’t take the chance and not appear for the court date, as that would have given them another lawful reason or excuse to put me in jail again. The court date had already passed so I called the Pembroke Courthouse Clerk and she told me I had to contact her attorney, Brandon Galloway. After some give and take I told him I did not get the retirement either. His response was it does not matter that you don’t get the retirement, only that she does! He informed me that he would tell me when the next court date is. The order says it is according to rule 32 of the Superior Court I am to go in front of the judge that ruled in the case. My ex took me back to court because she hadn’t received her money. You have to understand that she would rather see me still suffer then to admit that she was wrong. She will do anything to make my life a living hell….. a drama queen all the way. I would like to state that my oldest daughter told me that my ex went to several lawyers before she found one that would handle her case. As I said before I stopped my pay because I was tired of letting my ex get any more of what belongs to me. So again how can GA go after pay that was paid back? I would think that according to the law they couldn’t but they did. If what they do is so unbelievable then why is it so hard to find someone who can help me. How can I go back to Georgia and try to get my divorce decree modified, when in fact, I’m afraid to return to that state. The state of Georgia benefits one-way or the other every time I have to go to court there.
20. Dec 16, 2008, I flew from Colorado to go in front of Judge Russell yet again. I told him all that has happened and he says for me to get counseling and get over it. I also told him my former spouse committed perjury in this court in front of him and that she did state she MAY have told me that about the retirement being required in the divorce. He then told me to pay her an additional $500 for her court fees by Feb or he will put me in jail until I do. This is for Contempt of Court charges (see note 19). I made a comment to the judge that seven months after a soldier retires from 20 years of faithful and honorable service he is in prison and THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY. He looked at me like I had 2 heads.
21. Jan 2009 In the mail, I receive a court order to pay my former spouse an additional $500 for contempt of court, court cost and that if I did not pay I would be in jail “for a long time.” My check for these 2 weeks was $121.41 but I guess, like her lawyer said in comment 19, it does not matter that I don’t get the money, only that she does.
Along with paying 1/2 of the retirement, and as stated above, court ordered to give an additional $500 for her court fees. This is the kind of justice that Vets receive because of the Former Spouse Protection Act. I almost told the judge that anyone that thinks this is legal and in compliance with the US Constitution needs counseling! I have searched the net and cannot find anywhere to post this or on a bog site that could make a difference. In my view, this is the kind of thing that needs to be put in front of all members of Congress that think that the law is fair and “Constitutional.”
On Jan. 14, 2009 I was rushed to the hospital because I had suffered a stroke. It was determined that stress was a big factor. Only months ago I was willing to give up my retirement in order to stop my ex from this systematic robbery. Now I find myself deemed as disabled and am very much in need of all my pay. My ex has 3 incomes in her household…hers’, her husbands’ and one-half of my pay, while I am struggling to pay my rent. Am I doomed to become a homeless disabled vet living on the streets along with my present wife? You have no idea of the disgust I have for Congress and that this country is no longer worth defending!
22. April 25 3009 I received a letter in the mail from the office of the Georgia Attorney General signed by Mark J. Cicero stating this was an issue for the Office of Child Support Services. It is absolutely increasable that any reasonable person would believe such a thing. Just another example of the refusal of government and its officials to do anything about supporting the Constitution or the citizens of this country!
It started with California, New York, and spread out like contagious diseases. Nothing more than a single mother playing the system and a bunch of stupid lawyers, judges, and civil workers caving in to her.
Never underestimate the cunning of sluts and government that represents her. At least with a hooker, they leave after you get screwed…