Court for Frederick County Case No. 10K15057318
Deborah S., Wright, Zarnoch, Robert A. (Senior Judge,
Specially Assigned), JJ
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
2. Did the circuit court err in ordering separate sentences
for criminal contempt and failure to provide child support?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...