|The shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina
The black man is Walter Scott, of North Charleston, South Carolina. That's the same Walter Scott who was unarmed and fleeing when a police officer fatally shot him in the back on April 4. The white man is Ted Rollins, of Greenville, South Carolina. He is the former CEO of Campus Crest Communities, a company that received roughly $1 billion in support from Wall Street investors before Rollins was forced out last November as the company stock floundered amid signs of mismanagement.
Rollins belongs to one of the nation's wealthiest families, the folks behind Atlanta-based Rollins Inc., the umbrella company for Orkin Pest Control and other highly profitable enterprises.
Where does child support enter the picture? According to published reports, Scott was behind on child-support payments when Officer Michael Slager stopped his vehicle in traffic because of an inoperable brake light. Family members say Scott probably ran because he feared Slager would conduct a records check, see the child-support arrearage, and take him to jail. Here is how one report described Scott's likely state of mind when Slager pulled him over:
[Scott] had been arrested multiple times in the past on contempt-of-court charges stemming from child-support obligations he had missed, and he knew all too well the criminal repercussions he was facing: arrest; a few rushed minutes in court, at best, without a lawyer and without the presumption of innocence (because it would be a civil proceeding); jail time; and another mark against him on his permanent record.
How much was Walter Scott behind on child support? Accounts vary, but Associated Press reported that he was behind by at least $7,500, although no bench warrant was set for his arrest. NBC reported that Scott owed $18,104, and a bench warrant had been issued in January 2013.
Whichever set of numbers you go with, Walter Scott was a paragon of fatherly virtue compared to Ted Rollins. In December 2011, we wrote a post titled "Ted Rollins, CEO of Campus Crest Communities, is a deadbeat dad." That's because Rollins had been almost three years behind on payments to his ex wife, Birmingham resident Sherry Carroll Rollins, and their daughters--Sarah and Emma Rollins.
Court documents and interviews with Sherry Rollins indicate Ted Rollins still is behind by a six-figure sum, and we see no sign that ever will be paid. We also see no sign that a South Carolina court, which ordered the payments, will make Ted Rollins pay.
How far behind was Ted Rollins in his court-ordered payments? That question is not easy to answer because Rollins v. Rollins has a convoluted and unsavory history, with Ted Rollins receiving one unlawful favor after another. In 2001, Sherry Rollins initiated divorce proceedings in Greenville, South Carolina, where the family lived; adultery was among the grounds cited in her divorce complaint.
|Ted Rollins, former CEO of
Campus Crest Communities
Ted Rollins then proceeded to sue Sherry Rollins for divorce in Shelby County, Alabama, and Judge D. Al Crowson took the case, even though black-letter law (see Wesson v. Wesson, 628 So. 2d 953, Ala. Civ. App., 1993) says that cannot happen when lawful jurisdiction has been established elsewhere.
Here is what court records, from two states, show about Ted Rollins' arrearage on child support, alimony, and attorney fees:
* In February 2002, a South Carolina court ordered Ted Rollins to pay $4,500 a month during the pendency of the divorce case;
* A contempt order issued in October 2002, found that Ted Rollins was behind in court-ordered payments by $70,410--$50,000 in attorney fees and $20,410 in family support.
* From the date of the contempt order to the final order of divorce in Alabama (on July 18, 2005), was 33 months. If you multiply $4,500 over 33 months, you find that Ted Rollins owed $148,500. When you add the $70,140 arrearage that apparently never was paid, you get a total of $218,910.
* After she and her children were forced to flee to Alabama, Sherry Rollins states that she received a $100,000 payment from the state of South Carolina. Why that figure? She has no idea.
* What about the remaining $118,910 that a South Carolina court ordered Ted Rollins to pay? Court records show it has never been paid, suggesting Ted Rollins still is a deadbeat dad, to the tune of more than $100,000.
Let's return to our comparison of Walter Scott and Ted Rollins. Scott apparently owed somewhere between $7,500 and $18,140 in child support. He had been arrested and sent to jail multiple times--three times, according to this report--on contempt-of-court charges for failure to pay child support.
For the purposes of this post, let's pick a mid-range on the Scott numbers and assume he owed $12,820. After being under a contempt order for almost three years, Ted Rollins owed $218,910. That is roughly 17 times the amount Scott owed.
Was Ted Rollins jailed multiple times for failure to pay child support? No. In fact, we see no record that Rollins was jailed even once for failure to make court-ordered payments over a 33-month period. Public records indicate Rollins still owes more than $118,000. Is anyone going to make him pay it or send him to jail if he doesn't? We see no sign of it.
Did Walter Scott have reason to be fearful about what likely would happen to him the day Officer Slager pulled him over? An article titled "Why was Walter Scott running?" provides insight:
Not only did Scott's own experience suggest that arrest and jail time can result from child-support debt, but the statistics tell us the likelihood is high that a black, working-class man like him would get thrown in jail for such a reason.
In South Carolina, at least one in eight people in jail are there on contempt-of-court charges related to late or unpaid child-support orders. Nationally, as many as 50,000 parents may be in jail on those charges, though the exact number is uncertain, mainly because "contempt of court" is a general charge that does not only apply to child support cases. The best available data suggest that a majority of these jailed parents are black fathers.
"On top of all the other things that go through your head as a black man in an encounter with a police officer," says Jacquelyn Boggess, the Co-Director of the Center for Family Policy and Practice and an expert on child support, "you have to be thinking about your child support debt, because that's one of the big reasons that black men spend time in jail."
Ted Rollins owed roughly 17 times what Walter Scott owed in payments related to child support--and the orders came from the same state, South Carolina. (You can view the contempt order for Rollins at the end of this post.) Public records indicate Rollins still owes more than $118,000 in such payments, and no one seems interested in making him pay it.
Is Ted Rollins worried about being pulled over for a broken brake light? Is Ted Rollins worried that a police officer will tase him? Is Ted Rollins concerned, in the least, that he will land in jail for failure to pay child support? Does Ted Rollins stay awake at night, worried that a cop will fatally shoot him in the back?
We can't read Ted Rollins' mind, but our guess is that the answer to all of those questions is no.
Does Rollins plan to pay the six-figure sum he apparently still owes? The answer to that question also appears to be no.
Were Walter Scott and Ted Rollins treated equally under the law? We think you can reach your own conclusions on that question. It isn't a close call.