Monday, December 08, 2008

Bogus child support case to be investigated

A Penn. newspaper reports:
DA begins probe of mistaken identity child-support case

Dauphin County President Judge Richard A. Lewis has ordered a criminal investigation into the case of a Philadelphia man who was forced to pay more than $12,000 in support for another man's child.

Lewis reviewed the case of Walter Andre Sharpe Jr., who was jailed four times for not keeping up with the payments, after reading about his plight in The Patriot-News last month.

He referred the case to Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. Marsico said his office has begun looking into the case and there are no specific targets of the investigation.

Dauphin County Domestic Relations has said in court papers that it determined Walter Sharpe was the father "after reasonable investigation."

It took The Patriot-News less than a hour to find the real father, who said he had custody of the child Sharpe had been supporting.

Walter Sharpe and his attorney, Tabetha Tanner, claim that domestic relations "stole his identity" by replacing his personal information with that of the real father.
I reported this mistaken identity story last month.

I am glad that the publicity has forced the authorities to investigate this outrageous abuse, but it appears to me that they are just looking for a low-level scapegoat. The real problem is with the court.

Before being sentenced to jail, Sharpe should have gotten a fair trial in which he had an opportunity to confront the evidence against him. The mom should have testified, in court and under oath, that Sharpe was the father. A DNA test should have confirmed it. Instead, the judge sent him to jail four times based only on hearsay.

It should be impossible for a judge to jail someone based on hearsay. Hearsay is not even supposed to be admissable as evidence in court. With current DNA technology, there is no excuse for the court to ever make paternity mistakes.

1 comment:

optimist said...

...but paternity and child support don't really go "hand-in-hand." Putative fathers pay child support all the time, regardless of paternity. With that in mind, judges have no need to establish paternity. If you are "ordered to pay" then judges simply answer the question "did you pay" or "didn't you." There was no hearsay, paternity wasn't a question on the table.

The fact that the defendant wasn't able to offer evidence in his