Anthony Graves: Wrongfully Imprisoned, Now Target of Texas AG for Child Support
As we've documented many times over the years, Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott likes to beat his chest in front of the media while beating up on so-called "deadbeat dads." Often he's jailing fathers who have no way of paying the child support obligations they’re saddled with. A few years ago we criticized Abbott for this in a Houston Chronicle column, noting:
The television station shows three general laborers, three construction laborers, a landscaper, a salesman and two tradesmen, most of them Latino men with dour expressions on their faces. Are they the featured men in a report about hard times for blue-collar workers in the state of Texas? The hopefuls for a local job training program? No—they are Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s “Top 10 Most Wanted Child Support Evaders.”
At the same time, Abbott has little interest in his duty to enforce parents' right to visitation with their children. F & F Board Member Robert Franklin, Esq. estimates that, based on Abbott's own figures, the Texas Attorney General's office spends over $270 million per year for child support enforcement, versus a little over $500,000 for visitation. This is a ratio of more than $500 spent on enforcing child support for every dollar spent on enforcing visitation.
The 10 men collectively somehow owe nearly $700,000 in back child support. Not one appears to have an education, and the big wage earner in the group is a plumber. Abbott says he “singled out” these men because they “have the ability” to pay their child support but “refuse to do so.” One wonders what the financial condition of those not “singled out” is.
As bad as this is, Abbott's handling of the Anthony Graves case is even worse. Graves was sent to death row in 1992 for murder, even though he had a solid alibi. Last November Graves, who never ceased maintaining his innocence, was freed. District Attorney Bill Parham stated that he had examined the case and was “absolutely convinced” of Graves’s innocence, explaining, “There’s not a single thing that says Anthony Graves was involved in this case. There is nothing."
Texas law gives compensation to the wrongly convicted. If a person is convicted who is actually innocent, the state pays him/her $80,000 for each year in prison. In Graves’ case, that would mean $1.44 million. Employing a technicality, Texas has refused to pay Graves the money.
Worse, Abbott tagged Graves with child support obligations he accrued during his time in prison, and is taking money out of his paycheck every week to pay down the support debt. The "children" for whom the money is being collected are now 39 and 35 years old.
Graves has understandably struggled to earn a living, but recently got an invitation to speak at a college near Houston about his experience with the criminal justice system. The college paid Graves a modest ($250) honorarium, but Graves never got it. Abbott garnisheed it. Franklin writes:
What’s next, his lunch money? Needless to say, Graves had better look out. He’d better not fall behind on repaying his child support debt. Gregg Abbott will put a man in jail for that.
Las Vegas Radio Host Heidi Harris Tells F & F 'Family Courts Are Biased Against Men'
Fathers and Families Executive Director Glenn Sacks discussed Nevada AB 313 and SB 284, bills to address many of the family law/child custody problems faced by Nevada’s active duty and reserve service members, on The Heidi Harris Show on KDWN in Las Vegas on May 5.
Harris became interested in bills after seeing Sacks’ column Protecting parents who serve (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 5/1/11).
Harris (pictured) criticized family courts for being “biased against men.” Harris. a child of divorce, condemned Parental Alienation and visitation interference, and said that during her childhood, “I was lucky–my parents weren’t jerks about it.”
We also discussed the Miller/Jenkins lesbian child custody battle–to learn more, see F & F’s MSN.com column With Gay Marriage Comes Gay Divorce: The Rise of Lesbian Custody Battles (10/15/09).
|Massachusetts Action Alert
|Massachusetts Action Alert: Shared Parenting Bill to Be Heard--We Need Your Presence, Your Phone Calls
Fathers and Families’ Shared Parenting bill (H02684) will have its public hearing by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary on Wednesday, May 18 at the State House in Boston. We want your help for this critical hearing. We need you to:
- Call the members of the Judiciary Committee (as well as your local legislators) and let them know that you support H02684.
The contact info. for all Committee Members is here. To find your own state senator or representative, click here. Tell us how your interactions went by emailing us.
- Be there on Wednesday, May 18 at 1 pm in the Gardner Auditorium at the State House when the bill is heard. For directions, click here. Tell us you will be attending by emailing us.
Background on H02684
Fathers and Families members’ Citizen Lobbyist efforts of the past several months have paid off, as nearly 30% of all Massachusetts legislators signed on as co-sponsors of Shared Parenting legislation. For a complete list of these legislators, click here.
Click here to learn what to Do at the Hearing Wednesday, May 18
We need you to:
You don’t need to be an expert on the text of our shared parenting bill (the pros and cons, etc.) because you won’t be questioned by legislators.
- Tell the committee members that you are in favor of shared parenting legislation. You’ll be limited to three minutes, and they will enforce this.
- Be polite.
- Speak lovingly of your children and how they would be helped by shared parenting.
Please do not:
F & F’s History of Organizing Popular Support for Shared Parenting in Massachusetts
- Spend time criticizing your ex, the judges, feminists, or the legislators.
- Make claims and accusations you cannot prove, such as financial corruption, legislators being in the pocket of the lawyers, or whatever. Leave the anger and the threats to run them out of office at home.
- Go off topic. This is the time to talk about shared parenting, not about child support, restraining orders, or other subjects.
While the bill has been stymied to date by a small minority on the Judiciary Committee, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of the population of Massachusetts favors shared parenting, and it’s safe to say that most legislators favor it, too. We say this because:
To learn more about Shared Parenting bill H02684, click here.
- An F & F Massachusetts shared parenting ballot initiative in 2004 won by a huge margin (86%-14%).
- Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told the legislature that if they pass our shared parenting bill, he will sign it, and F & F has met with Patrick.
- F & F has consistently been able to gather large numbers of legislative co-sponsors for shared parenting, including future U.S. Senator Scott Brown and many others.
- Shared parenting was the most-requested plank in the Platform of the Massachusetts Democratic Party in 2009.
- Shared parenting was endorsed in principle by the editorial board of the Boston Globe in 2008.
To contribute financially to support Fathers and Families’ work on H02684 and Shared Parenting, please click here.
Please feel free to call us with any questions about the hearing at (617) 542-9300.
Together with you in the love of our children,
Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
Founder, Chairman of the Board