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— Circuit Judge Robin Green had a simple message Thursday for parents accused of failing to pay child support. Green won’t accept any plea agreements without prison time for defendants accused of owing $10,000 or more.

The first such case was on Green’s court docket Thursday.

Hope Star McDaniel, 29, of Springdale was charged with nonsupport and two counts of failure to appear. She was also charged as an habitual offender because she’s been convicted of four prior felonies.

She was arrested Sept. 11, 2007, in connection with failing to pay child support for her two children.

Deputy Prosecutor Kip Whittemore and Erwin Davis, McDaniel’s attorney, proposed an arrangement to resolve the case. The plea called for McDaniel to be placed on probation and serve an undetermined amount of jail time.

However, Green refused to accept the plea agreement.Green said if a person owes more than $10,000 or more in child support, then she feels prison time is in order.

Green said McDaniel’s case was the first one fitting that category since she took office Jan. 1. When the charges were filed in October 2007 against McDaniel, she had failed to pay child support and was $15,150 in arrears.

Prosecutors filed an amended criminal information in the case in February, saying she owed $14,479 for not making payments during a four-year span. A ledger filed with McDaniel’s criminal case shows she didn’t make any payments from November 2001 to November 2005. In November 2001, she was ordered to may $58 a week, according to court documents.

Whittemore told Green that McDaniel had been making her monthly child support payments since the end of 2005. Davis also spoke in favor of the plea.

“It’s more beneficial to have her on probation and making payments instead of having her in prison and not making any payments,” Whittemore said after being asked about the plea offer. “If she fails to pay or commits new crimes then she will be sent to prison.”

Whittemore said he agrees in some nonsupport cases people owing more than $10,000 deserve prison time, but some people owing less than $10,000 also deserve prison time for not supporting their children.

Whittemore said there’s a difference between a person owing $14,000 and not paying and someone owing the same amount, but making payments.

Whittemore said nonsupport cases have to be handled on a case-by-case basis and prison time in McDaniel’s case would be counterproductive.

Green reset the case for 8:30 a.m. Jan. 4.

McDaniel told Green she believes she can pay enough to take the amount under $10,000.

“Then you are not looking at the Department of Correction,” Green replied.

McDaniel was released from jail on $2,500 bond after her arrest.

Davis could not be reached for comment.

For The Record, Pages 4 on 11/11/2009

Print Headline: NONSUPPORT: Judge sets her sights on nonsupporting parents

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