Saturday, April 30, 2011

State won't compensate Anthony Graves for innocence; instead garnishes his paycheck

Anthony Graves seemingly can't win for losing. Exonerated and freed 18 years after his capital murder conviction, the state Comptroller first refused him compensation and now the AG is garnishing his wages based on a child support order issued years after he'd been sent to death row. An editorial in the Houston Chronicle hit the nail on the head:
As the Chronicle's Harvey Rice reports, the Texas Attorney General's Office also is garnisheeing $175 a month from the former inmate's salary as a legal investigator for nearly $5,500 the state claims he owes in back child support while he was behind bars.

The state also seized a $250 honorarium that Graves was to be paid for a presentation to political science students at Prairie View A&M University about his prison ordeal.

"The state of Texas tried to kill me for something I didn't do, and now they are trying to get child support out of me," Graves told Rice. "I feel powerless."

According to a spokesperson for Attorney General Greg Abbott, because a judge ordered then-prisoner Graves to pay the child support in 2002, the AG's office has a legal obligation to collect the money. He did express sympathy for Graves, adding, "his experience is truly troubling and deeply compelling."

Obviously not troubling or compelling enough for the governor, the comptroller and the attorney general to get their heads together and try to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and remedy the continuing effects of a truly horrible miscarriage of justice.

The state took away Graves' freedom for much of his adult life, dismissed on a technicality the compensation owed him by law, and now bills him for the consequences of his wrongful imprisonment. It's a truly sickening situation.

Where there's a will to right an injustice, the most powerful officials in the state must find a way. If they had real sympathy for what this man has suffered, they'd promptly set things right.
If Graves hadn't been falsely convicted, of course, he'd have been around to support his children in the first place! For that matter, if he were compensated for what happened to him, there's little doubt he'd have no trouble satisfying this obligation. But coupled with the Comptroller's denial of compensation, this scenario tacks on further insult to already-incalculable injury.

MORE: From Lisa Falkenberg at the Chronicle.


Audrey said...

Shocking! What will it take to put a stop to this insanity?

Jed S-A said...

It is absurd that Texas acknowledges that Anthony Graves was innocent but refuses to give him compensation because the judge's order didn't have the magic words "actual innocence".

I hesitate to blame the AG for garnishing his wages, though. Child support is the right of the child, or to the person who paid the amount in the absence of money from the person responsible. It's not the State's money to waive.

Anonymous said...

Isn't child support about the child, not the person paying it? No doubt this is a terrible situation, but if it's the child that's the focus here, don't we want child support paid?

I'm also a little surprised that you want the AG's office and the governor to "cut through the red tape" to stop this happening. Seriously, Grits? You are really advocating them ignoring or circumventing the law based on sympathy? If they did that in other other situation you'd be all over them, but when it's one of your pet causes it's okay?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@9:20 - As I said in the post, "if he were compensated for what happened to him, there's little doubt he'd have no trouble satisfying this obligation." I'm arguing to cut through the red tape on his compensation claim.

That said, the situation is somewhat unique, of course, because it was the actions of the state, not his own decisions, which caused him to be unavailable to provide support. So even if the focus is on the child, it's the state's fault, not Graves', that he was on death row when the claim was filed and he couldn't pay.

Also, the "child" is now a 27-year old man.

rodsmith said...

no offence jed s-a and anonymous BUT if the little crooks in the state hadn't ILLEGALLY locked him up for TWO DECADES for a set of crimes he hadn't comitted...he would have been there and supported his family. Sorry in my book the STATE becasue of it's actions is liable for that money.

Plus these little retards should get on their knees DAILY and thank whatever crooked god they worship that he is't ME. Because One or more of them WOULD BE DEAD by now there is no way in hell i'd put up with the crap they have been pulling.

The first one that would go would be this retard of a comptroller!

Anonymous said...

You need help, rod.

Anonymous said...

So the State of Texas has filed an affirmative suit against Mr. Graves - hmmmmmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't the state be responsible for his child support? They were responsible for his wrongful incarceration.

RockheadedMama said...

The fact that the "child" is now 27 is immaterial. Plenty of Texas women continue to live in poverty long after their children are raised after spending every dime they made (and borrowed) supporting children from child support scofflaws.

What I find interesting is that Abbott is claiming the state has a duty to collect the child support, when, in my case, the OAG argued against collecting the child support arrears. It seems that Abbott uses the law situationally.

Lady Justice is supposed to be blind, but it is certainly not a requirement nor is it desirable that she be ignorant and stupid too.

When you know about Abbot, his child support collection rate and how it stacks up against other states,* you begin to see what is so egregious about this case -- Abbott is abusing his authority and the power of his office, to further harm Graves.

*The state collected about two-thirds of all child support owed last year, ranking it 17th, according to The News' analysis. The state ranks 30th when all past delinquent support is included. When Abbott took office, the state ranked 10th and 42nd, respectively, in those categories, the analysis showed.
And the amount of child support owed in Texas is rising faster than in other places.
Child support due nationally has increased about 11 percent since 2005, federal statistics show. But the amount due in Texas rose almost five times faster during the same period.

amy said...

This is a true tragedy and is yet one more example of the total innefficiency of govt bureacracy. This needs to be set right.

rodsmith said...

not sure how you figure that 12:33

the state of texas in the person of it's justice deparmtne

Basically comitted any number of crimes in this man's trial and conviction that if done by anyone else would have been a CRIME and resulted in DECADES IN PRISON FOR THE INDIVIDUIAL WHO DID THEM. Sorry i catch a criminal in the act..they tend to get hurt! So it took hiim years to catch them and find the proof! so what! He knows now! And not only does the state not seem to want to do ANYTHING about it...But are coming back to hammer him on another technecality!

Sorry i call em like i see em!

i don't care what your job! or what clothing you are wearing!

Try and screw me over and your gonna get hurt!

Last time i looked the U.S. Constituion gives every american the right to self defence and there is NO acception for Govt actors in that document. IN FACT you might say the 2nd amendment was put in SPECIFICALY with govt agents in mind!

you get too grabby. get too big for your britches! try and run our lives TOO much.. Go right ahead WE GOT GUNS !

benjamin franklin himself stated this new govt was an experiment and if it didnt' work for the majority of the people they have every right and obligation to REMOVE IT any way they could and try again.

considering the govt approval polls now run 10-20% in every area if not lower I think we are PAST that point!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:20 sounds like Bill Otis.

This is payback for exposing the true nature of Texas' (and by extension America's)thuggish conviction and punishment system.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

This is a touchy subject for me too. I think that Yes the State of Texas is responsible for the child support, Why because he was already on death row, as I understand it , when the order was entered. How in Gods name does the State expect a person on their way to the death chamber to pay child support?? So being as the State put him in the position (wrongly) to where he was unable to support his family. They now want him to pay child support from death row.

Splain Me Lucy How That Makes Sense.

Now to the matter where the words actual innocence arent on the paper I have an idea .... wait for it ....

Have the gentleman who wrote the paperwork send an amended copy stating his mistake ( because thats what it was) and then our beloved Mr. Abbott could then see a way to remove his head from his *** and then maybe "We can all just get along"

Oh hey, Rodsmith, I love Ya bro but that was a little postal...

Anonymous said...

The State of Texas sucks. Priorities are on keeping the greasy spokes of the wheel turning. There is NO accountability as this situation demonstrates.

Anonymous said...

This article published in the Houston Chronicle explains what is really happening to Graves. And why...

Anonymous said...

I believe the child support matter would go away if the mother of the child told the AG that she no longer wished to pursue this matter. As long as a child support order that's signed by a judge is in place, the AG has to enforce that Order. Now, the AG's office ain't that great, but that's another blog. And this man endured a grave injustice and he should be compensated by the State. I'm surprised his attorney did not file a Motion to Clarify Order and have a hearing to get the Judge to add those magic words.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:58 -
This article is exactly why so many outside Texas think of us as arrogant and 'hello' above the law! (not saying stuff don't happen elsewhere, just saying ...)

Good Lord, how the HELL did they get away with this?

Anon 10:42 -
Not sure but, I would imagine (in light of above article) it is the State that is pursuing the back owed child support for it's own coffers, NOT the mother. If the AG is involved, most likely she was receiving AFDC, if that is indeed the case, the State considers her justly compensated until they (State) collect all, plus interest, that 'they' paid her ... The mother, (child-adult) may never see a dime of what is collected now.

cheenna L

rodsmith said...

only one problem about this plan homelss cowboy!

"Have the gentleman who wrote the paperwork send an amended copy stating his mistake ( because thats what it was) and then our beloved Mr. Abbott could then see a way to remove his head from his *** and then maybe "We can all just get along"

if i rember the case right. the man was in fact a women who it so happens turned out the be the DAUGHTER of the same judge who shafted him in the first place.

Makes you wonder if she did it this way just to contiue the harassment and spare dear old daddy the embarrasment!

Plus of course it's not POSTAL to stand up for your rights even if the individual or organization that is trying to deprive you of them get's HURT!

besides how is it postal to inform those who would try and take your rights that they are welcome to try. but if they try they should be willing to back that try with their asses.!

The Homeless Cowboy said...

All righty then, but who are the man and woman and daughter, I dont know who you reference, I referenced Rodney King with the all get along thing. but ok then.

Anonymous said...

Because you're spoiling for a fight Rod, and nobody has done a thing to you. Not even that "tyrannical" government. You merely have found a cause to justify your tendencies for violence, not the other way around.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

I just read the story by Ms. Falkenberg. Damn, Wow, How are these people not disbarred, removed from the bench and arrested is there not 1 police officer, sheriff, Texas Ranger, Govenor, or somebody in this state who has the authority to arrest these people??????

If you or I tried to pull some lame stunt like that we would be dropped underneath the worst prison they could find.

I feel stupid for not knowing this but now that I do I feel so powerless, so amazed and so very very sad that I cannot do anything about it and those who can .....wont. Jesus, what a horrible group of miscreants run this State.

Anonymous said...

Homeless, rodsmith is referring to this little-read article in the Houston Chronicle that links all the pieces of the puzzle together.

rodsmith said...

actualy 12:31 if i had as you call it

"You merely have found a cause to justify your tendencies for violence, not the other way around."

then the last time i had to use violence wouldn't be alost 30 years in the past!

of course the reason it's 30 years in the past may be BECASUE any of my neighbors will tell you the same thing i have. Mess with me and my family or my property and your gonna get hurt!

we dont' have a lot of crime here. heck the biggest and most famous murder is the death of the sheriff's father like 40 years ago.

criminals here tend to not survive to be prosecuted.

Anonymous said...

I propose the lege pass a law that requires the state to pay the cost6s of any back child support owed by any prisoner who is later exonerated, no matter how the order of release is worded. For those who have received a ruling of "actual innocence," the state should be forced to pay back child support, in addition to the compensation money owed to the exoneree. If it were any other claim in a court of law, the successful litigant would be entitled to any and all injuries or damages resulting from the conviction. Just imagine if more exonerees declined the compensation and filed suit instead??? I also think that if a prosecutor was shown to intentionally neglect the existence of exculpatory evidence, he/she should lose his/her Bar license, be charged with a criminal offense, and placed on one of the maximum security prisons from which the exonereee was freed. One thing for sure: If this were the law, prosecutors would be a hell of a lot more careful when performing their duties.

Angee said...

If the mother received welfare this money is going to the state. If the $ are owed to the boy and the mother they could simple type up a waiver stating the account has been paid in full. There is a hefty amount of interest on past due child support owed by an individuals but it likely does nor apply when the state is one that owes.If I had the money I would pay this myself and Mr. Graves could survive while he fights this idiotic battle to deal with a state that is intent on destroying him.

doran said...

The comments indicate there is a lot of confusion about how Mr. Graves' child support obligation was handled. So, even though I am not familiar with Mr. Graves' actual situation, I'm going to take a chance and describe a hypothetical situation which may[or may not] be similar to Mr. Graves' actual situtation vis-a-vis the child support order.

Mr. Graves is sent to prison, wrongly, by the State of Texas. The mother of his alleged child seeks the help of the State of Texas in the form of child support payments made to her by the State of Texas. The State can do so pursuant to Chapter 231 of the Texas Family Code.

Or, the mother hires a lawyer to get a child support order from a judge. Mr. Graves is ordered to make child support payments. Being incarcerated and without wealth, he defaults on his obligation.

At some point, the State takes an assignment from the mother of the child support which Mr. Graves has been ordered to pay, in return for the mother receiving payments from the state in the amount ordered by the Court, and for other, so-called, Title IV-D services from the State.

Under this hypothetical situation, it is almost a 100% certainty that the mother received child support from the State during the period Mr. Graves' was in prison.

Until now the A.G.'s office did not seek to have Mr. Graves held in contempt for not paying child support, and jailed, because he was already incarcerated. The State did not seek a judgment for the child support, nor did it garnish Mr. Graves' wages, because he had none.

Any past due child support amounts which the State is now collecting through garnishment or administrative writs of withholding are going to be retained by the State. Those amounts are not going to the mother. Those amounts also include interest on the amounts Mr. Graves did not pay, at the rate of 10% or 12% per annum.

I think a lawyer with extensive practice in the Family Law field can find a way to bring Mr. Attorney General's collection efforts to a halt. One way is found in Texas Family Code section 231.007(e), which provides in part that a person in Mr. Graves' position is indebted to the State and that the debt may be eliminated by "resolving the debt in a manner acceptable to the Title IV-D agency." In Mr. Graves' case, the office of the Texas Attorney General is probably the Title IV-D agency.

What this means is that Greg Abbott could bring this to a close in a couple of days. If he really considers what the State did to Mr. Graves to be "truly troubling and deeply compelling," Mr. Abbott can make a decision that the time in prison, wrongly spent, and the lucre the State has already garnished, is acceptable, and stamp Mr. Graves' bill PAID IN FULL.

We, and Mr. Graves, will just have to wait and see how truly and deeply troubled and compelled the AG is about this matter. I am not hopeful, in light of the Attorney General's explanation that the State is legally obligated to collect the money. The State is not legally obligated. Mr. Graves owes the State a debt. Creditors are not legally obligated to collect debts. They can if they want to or they can let it go. The State can eliminate Mr. Graves' debt with a one page, or even one-paragraph order by Mr. Abbott.

I don't mind if someone out there corrects my assumptions about the child support order and Title IV-D services to the mother. I think a full understanding of the background would clarify a lot.

Anonymous said...

If memory serves me correctly, there was a national television network that aired a program on the Graves case. With 2012 political elections coming up soon, I wonder what affect it would have if this new wrinkle where exposed nationally? I suspect that it would make Texas a focal point for political commentary all over the country. With our State leaders so visible on the national political scene, they could use this to show how great Texans are. Or they could continue to ignore Mr. Graves' plight and be seen as a place you might not be too proud to claim as home! Anybody know what national network aired the Graves program? I'd bet they would love the story!

Angee said...

Thank you, Doran. Your explanation is much more professional than mine. Considering the amount owed and the interest rate it would be a safe bet that the true amount due is minimal.
Anon 6:15 I am true Texan and ashamed of the actions of some of our leaders that are sticklers for the law only when it is used to their advantage. However, I see no advantage here except pettiness and power. I hope this comes back to bite them. This is a big state yet honor among leaders is absent in many situations yet they stay in office. Maybe honor is lacking at all levels.

Anonymous said...

6:15 the show that aired the Anthony Graves story was 48 hours Mystery.

Anonymous said...

This is truly disgusting. Greg Abbott and Governor Perry are embarrasments to the good Texans they are supposed to represent. Shame on them, and for all the other bloqs that don't stand up for the right thing.

Don said...

The important thing to me is that the state pay the man the money IT owes HIM. Then he could pay the state back. This would not right any wrong, but Graves seems to be a guy who is willing to forgive a BUNCH of stuff.

Anon: 6:15--I fear that the rest of the country is so accustomed to this kind of crap coming out of Texas that it would be just another joke. It is truly atrocious. Like Tim Cole and a lot of others. Should be some prosecutors and judges in jail over this one. Any maybe a few elected officials, just for good measure.