Judge outraged by handling of child-support case
DEE J. HALL
October 2, 2007
Humphrey's attorney, Lester Pines, said the judge wasn't
privy to all
of the plea negotiations that preceeded the trial. He said Humphrey
believes both he and the jury made the right call, and that the
evidence supported seven felony charges.
Anthony Williams made a promise to himself as a young boy
growing up in Chicago that he would never put his family through the
ordeal he endured as a child, shuttling back and forth to prison to
visit his father.
But beginning in 2005, Williams' promise to stay out of trouble began
Williams was arrested by Dane County officials and charged by
prosecutor Paul Humphrey with seven felony counts for falling $2,846
behind in child support for his 17-year-old daughter, Naiyma Wright. He
faced up to 12? years in prison.
Humphrey argued that Williams, who earned as much as $20 an hour as a
union electrician, could easily afford to make the $35-a-week payments.
He pointed to repeated steps Dane County officials took to get
Williams, of Chicago, to pay the required support, including suspending
his driver's license, garnisheeing his tax refund and, in the end,
filing criminal charges against him.
No criminal record
As the case headed toward trial, Williams, who had no criminal record,
refused to plead guilty to a felony charge. He and his attorney, Mark
Frank, of Madison, argued that high-paying jobs would dry up with a
felony record. The jury, however, convicted Williams on all seven
Open and shut case? Some didn't see it that way, including Dane County
Circuit Judge James Martin.
During an Aug. 1 sentencing hearing, Williams, his daughter and the
girl's mother, Nichole Wright, all pleaded with Martin to go easy on
the 37-year-old father.
Williams explained that he "made a mistake" when he fell behind in his
support after a divorce and thousands of dollars worth of medical bills
for his stepdaughter led to bankruptcy. Frank explained that while
Williams sometimes made a decent hourly wage, the employment was
"I did not want to put them (family members) through what I went
through as a child," Williams told the judge, describing prison visits
that began when he was 5 years old. "And now here I am in this
courtroom going through the nightmare that my father went through. And
I just, I just … I don't know. I just hope that the court ..."
"You don't have to say anymore," Martin
The judge then turned to Humphrey and Brad Logsdon of the Dane County
Child Support Agency and said they were trying to "destroy" Williams
"just because you could."
Martin noted that Williams, who also goes by the name Abdul Hakeem
Rassaam, had caught up with his child support payments by the time the
case went to trial.
"Somewhere along the line, we've lost sight of what child support
enforcement is supposed to be about; and that is to get payment to the
children, payment to the parents," Martin said. "This case morphed from
that into a prosecution for felonies, not because it was needed to get
payment, but because we could get seven felony convictions. We could
destroy, potentially destroy, this person financially for the rest of
Hakeem Rassaam, who used to go by the name Anthony Williams, was
prosecuted by Dane County Assistant District Attorney Paul Humphrey for
seven felony counts of failure to pay $2,846 in child support for his
17-year-old daughter. The mother and his daughter, Naiyma Wright,
pleaded for leniency for the Chicago man, and Judge James Martin
criticized Humphrey for allegedly trying to financially ruin the
37-year-old defendant. Humphrey defended the prosecution, saying it
forced Williams to take responsibility for his daughter.
(ANTHONY ROBERT LA PENNA - State Journal)
During an Aug. 1 sentencing, Dane County Circuit Judge James Martin
strongly criticized prosecutor Paul Humphrey for filing seven felony
counts against a man who was $2,846 behind in child support. He gave
defendant Anthony Williams, who also goes by the name Hakeem Raassaam
of Chicago, a token fine of less than $100 and a few months of
probation, noting that by the time of trial, Williams owed nothing.
Said Martin: "It took no prosecutorial discretion. It took no thought
at all. It was simply, 'I can go after them, I can get them, and I'm
going to do it, and in the process, I'm really going to damage him.'"
(State Journal file photo)
At sentencing, Logsdon argued that "we can't let people buy their way
out of criminal prosecutions." Humphrey said the prosecution forced
Williams to take financial responsibility for his daughter and that
"This is a case where the system actually did work."
The judge cut him off. "The system failed. The system failed.
Miserably," Martin said. Later in the hearing, the judge added: "The
state dismisses all kinds of serious felonies. Every day. I signed one
today that was a felony. There is no requirement that simply because
it's charged it has to go forward."
Martin imposed a token fine of less than $100 for all seven counts and
ordered eight months of probation — until Naiyma turns 18. Although
he's grateful for the judge's supportive words and light sentence,
Williams said he remains a convicted felon — the one thing he vowed
never to become. He said he'd like to appeal his case, but there's no
money for that.
Meanwhile, in the eyes of many, Williams said, "I am a thug."