Saturday, May 14, 2005

Former Basketball Star Ralph Sampson Arrested for Failure to Pay Child Support

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia announced that former University of Virginia and NBA basketball player Ralph Sampson was arrested in Georgia for failure to pay child support.  A press release issued by the USAO (here) states:

Sampson, a former NBA basketball player for the Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets, was indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia on March 19, 2003, for failing to pay more than $21,000 in child support obligations. The 2003 charges arose from Sampson’s failure to comply with a 1990 Stafford County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court order that directed him to pay $1,500 a month in support of a daughter living in Falmouth, Virginia. The order was modified in 1992 to reduce Sampson’s obligations to $675 per month. Sampson pled guilty to the federal charge on April 4, 2003, and was sentenced to two years probation on July 8, 2003. As a condition of his sentence and probation, Sampson was ordered to pay all current and delinquent child support obligations. Sampson has failed to maintain the child support obligations for this child and is currently more than $6,000 in arrears.

On May 4, 2005, Sampson was again indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia. The current indictment alleges that Sampson has not only failed to pay child support obligations as required by the 2003 federal order for the child mentioned above, but also has failed to pay court-ordered child support for a second daughter, who resides in Alexandria, Virginia. Despite a 1988 order from the District of Columbia’s Superior Court, Family Division, Domestic Relations Branch directing him to pay $1,500 a month in child support for this daughter, the indictment alleges that as of April 30, 2005, Sampson owed more than $247,500 in past due child support obligations for her.

The prosecution is under the criminal provision of the federal Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 (18 U.S.C. Sec. 228 -- available here), which provides: "Any person who . . . willfully fails to pay a support obligation with respect to a child who resides in another State, if such obligation has remained unpaid for a period longer than 1 year, or is greater than $5,000 . . . ."  The punishment for a first offense is up to six months in prison, and a second offense is punishable by up to two years.  This is the second time Sampson has been charged, so he may be facing a prison term if convicted in this case.  An interesting question is whether the federal criminal law should be used to prosecute "deadbeat" parents who fail to pay state-ordered child support.

Basketball aficionados may recall the last great "Battle of the Centers" in December 1982 when Sampson's UVa team faced Patrick Ewing's Georgetown Hoyas. I got to attend the game at the Capital Centre in Landover, MD.  Does anyone remember the score? (ph)

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