Monday, May 4, 2015

Walter Scott vs. Ted Rollins: Is race a factor in courts' handling of child-support cases in the Deep South?

The shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina
Should black Americans feel confident that they can go to court and receive the "equal protection under the law" that the Fourteenth Amendment supposedly guarantees them? Let's look at two child-support cases in South Carolina--one involving a black man, the other involving a white man--and you will see that the answer is a resounding no.

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
Jurisdiction was established in South Carolina, and the case was litigated there for three years, with Ted Rollins ordered to pay the mortgage and insurance on the martial home for Ms. Rollins and the children to live. When Ted Rollins failed to make the house-related payments, Ms. Rollins and the children were forced out of their home and fled to Alabama, where she had family.

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.


Anonymous said...

The vehicle never would have been stopped if Ted Rollins had been behind the wheel.

Anonymous said...

Walter Scott jailed for failure to pay child support = 3

Ted Rollins jailed for failure to pay child support = 0

So much for equality in America.

Anonymous said...

Ted Rollins still owes $118,000 in child support, and he's not in jail? Unbelievable.

legalschnauzer said...

That's part of having the case unlawfully moved to a favorable jurisdiction in Alabama, @11:14. "Justice" can be bought in the good old USA.

Anonymous said...

Not to lessen the significance of Scott and Rollins:

Yet tragically far more important
has been for sometime now, not what the public has known resulting out of AGs office, but to contrary, the abyss of facts and evidences covered up from them by AGs office.

True, Gene Sisson has been reportedly fired by AG; for may very well be not for reasons being so readily accepted.

There does exist a letter signed by Sisson in his official capacity while acting under color of law going on the record as, not only him, but others very interested in solving politically influenced covered up shotgun assassination of black police officer. Maybe enough Alabamians will call their own representatives asking if they are complicit?

Citizens for Legal Accountability and Responsibility in Alabama.

Anonymous said...

Rollins got away with beating up his stepson didn't he?

legalschnauzer said...

Yes, pretty much, @2:26. He was charged with misdemeanor assault when it should have been charged as the much more serious child abuse under North Carolina law. Rollins got off with a small fine and court costs, no jail time.

Anonymous said...

Sherry Rollins needs a mean-ass lawyer to take this SOB back to court and get a major modification in his payments, plus enforcement of the payments he already owes.

Is there a decent divorce lawyer in Alabama who can help this woman or have they all been paid off?

legalschnauzer said...

You make a good point, @2:33, but I'm not sure if an Alabama lawyer is what Ms. Rollins needs. I say that because there never has been a lawful ruling on the case in Alabama. It might be better for her to get a mean-ass South Carolina lawyer and take Ted Rollins back to court there. That's where the case started, and by law, that's where it should have continued.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Roger, I think your mingling issues here. You are trying to make it a racial issue and I think it is more of a class issue. Child support seems to hurt the lower class males more than upper class. You could have just as easily found a case of a lower class white man and compared it to an upper class black man. I for one do not believe in the current child support system. It encourages single mothers with the promise of free money. I believe in a 50-50 custody arrangement (be it week on / week off or another variant) and no child support. Children shouldn't be used as pawns to allow one parent to make a buck. I've gone on a bit of a tangent, but if you research custody and child support cases, I'm sure you would find plenty of stories to blog about.

legalschnauzer said...

I agree that class is part of the equation, @4:56. Money talks in our society, and in this example, Mr. Rollins had the money and Mr. Scott did not.

truthseeker said...

Anonymous at 4:56, you are an idiot. When fathers don't want their children around them, don't visit them or see them for 2.5 years, you think they single mother raising the children should not receive child support from the missing deadbeat Dad? You seem very stupid but very quick to come out with ridiculous remedies for dads who want to do nothing, pay nothing, and raise nothing. Please keep your ignorance to yourself. I would bet my life on your being a republican or a teapartier , am I right?

Anonymous said...

I think you are having a hard time understanding my point. When I said 50-50 custody, that implies the dad has his child half the time, so I'm having trouble understanding where the deadbeat dad is that equation. I could write a lot more on my proposal to fix child support, but it is off topic and would likely go over your head.

James Greek said...

I hope and wish all you stated would happen to this piece of junk.

James Greek said...

I have my doubts though. Imagine if Siegelman was still governor he'd make him pay. If I was governor of Alabama: I'd make him pay and I'd stand up to corporate pieces of shit