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Walker v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

September 27, 2017

DANYELLE WALKER
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

         Circuit Court for Frederick County Case No. 10K15057318

          Eyler, Deborah S., Wright, Zarnoch, Robert A. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ

          OPINION

          ZARNOCH, J.

         Danyelle Walker, appellant, was charged with two counts of criminal contempt and four counts of failure to pay child support. Following a jury trial in the Circuit Court for Frederick County, appellant was found guilty of all charges. The court sentenced appellant to three years of imprisonment, with all but twelve months suspended. Appellant appealed, and now presents two questions for our review:

1. Was the evidence legally insufficient to sustain the convictions for criminal contempt and failure to provide child support?
2. Did the circuit court err in ordering separate sentences for criminal contempt and failure to provide child support?

         For the following reasons, we conclude that there was sufficient evidence of willful nonpayment to sustain the convictions for criminal contempt and failure to provide child support, and that the court did not err by ordering separate sentences. Accordingly, we affirm the judgments of the circuit court.

         BACKGROUND

         Appellant was charged with two counts of criminal contempt and four counts of failure to provide child support in violation of Md. Code (1984, 2012 Repl. Vol.), Family Law Article ("FL"), § 10-203. Count One charged him with constructive criminal contempt from March 2013 through March 2015. Count Two charged him with constructive criminal contempt since April 2015. Counts Three through Six charged him with failure to provide child support for each of his four minor children. On December 7, 2016, a jury trial was held in the Circuit Court for Frederick County. The following testimony was elicited at trial.

         Paula Coleman testified as one of the State's witnesses. Coleman is a teacher in Frederick County and has four daughters with appellant. At the time of the trial, all four daughters were minors. Coleman testified that appellant did not work regularly between 1996 and 2006. According to Coleman, appellant lived with his mother. On August 4, 2006, appellant entered into a consent order to pay $500 per month in child support for the four children. From 2006 through 2015, Coleman stated that she spoke to appellant about three times a year. Coleman testified that she did not receive any child support payments directly from appellant between April 2013 and October 2015. During that period, she would occasionally talk to appellant and ask for support, but never received it, despite appellant making promises to provide support. In 2015, the child support order was increased to $700 per month. At the time that the order was changed, appellant's salary was listed as $17.33 per hour. Coleman did not know if appellant was actually working at that time.

         The jury also heard testimony from Edward Buell, a Department of Social Services ("DSS") employee who handled the case. Buell described the various measures taken by DSS when a parent fails to make their required child support payments. DSS attempts to make contact with the parent, then sends a demand letter, then initiates bank garnishment, and then directs suspension of the parent's driver's license. Buell explained that the State also files for civil contempt prior to charging the non-paying parent with criminal contempt. Buell testified that these efforts were taken in this case with appellant, but that he still repeatedly failed to pay child support from May 2013 through October 2015. Buell further testified that for at least seven of those months, appellant earned income but made no child support payments. On cross-examination, Buell testified about various payments and non-payments made by appellant during the relevant time frame. In the first quarter of 2014, appellant made $172 and paid $670 in child support. In the second quarter of 2014, appellant made $2, 991 and paid no child support. In the third quarter of 2014, appellant made $4, 588 and paid $730.77 in child support. In the fourth quarter of 2014, appellant made $1, 434 and paid $1, 477 in child support. In the first quarter of 2015, appellant made $2, 347 and paid $1, 611 in child support. Buell admitted that appellant never indicated to him that he did not intend to pay the child support.

         Appellant also testified in his defense. He told the jury that he has lived with his mother his entire life. From 2014 through 2015, appellant worked for Ruppert Landscaping for about a year and a half. He testified that child support was taken out of his check when he worked for Ruppert Landscaping. Appellant also did construction work for Eagle Contracting for a period of time. When he worked for Eagle Contracting, he paid child support on his own, because he did not make enough money to have his wages garnished. He claimed that he always looked for work during the 32-month period that the State claimed he had ignored the child support order. He stated that he looked for a job about two or three times a month. Appellant received unemployment when he was not working, and claimed that some of that money went to child support. Appellant admitted that he paid no child support from May through October 2013 and from June through October 2015. He told the court that he was not working during those periods. Appellant testified that he did not intentionally fail to pay child support. At the time of the trial, appellant was over $68, 000 in arrears.

         At the conclusion of the trial, appellant was convicted of two counts of criminal contempt and four counts of failure to provide child support. The court sentenced appellant to three years of imprisonment, with all but twelve months suspended for each ...


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