Westminster father of 5 gets 9 years for owing over $17,000 in child support

November 22, 1992|By DARREN M. ALLEN | DARREN M. ALLEN,STAFF WRITER

A Westminster father of five who owes more than $17,000 in child support has been sentenced to nine years in state prison by Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr.

Stephen Douglas Rill, 36, of George Street, became the third man in recent months to be given jail time by Carroll judges for failure to make child-support payments.

Convicted by Judge Beck on three counts of criminal non-support, Rill was given the maximum prison sentence. Judge Beck suspended all but three years of the consecutive sentences.

The majority of the county's 2,480 child-support cases are handled in civil court and rarely require criminal prosecution. The State's Attorney's Office becomes involved after child-support payments have stopped for at least a year.

Ordinarily, officials try to get payments rolling again rather than sending the offender to jail. But, says Assistant State's Attorney James E. Brewer, jail sometimes becomes the only answer.

"Some cases reach a certain stage where punishment becomes more important than getting the money back," he said. Mr. Brewer heads the State's Attorney's Office's Non-support Unit.

Rill's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Edward Barry, said sending him to jail doesn't accomplish anything.

"I can understand the desire of the county and the State's Attorney's Office to enforce support agreements, but here we have a case where the defendant doesn't have the ability to pay," the lawyer said Friday. "In short, he's being locked up for being poor."

The Journey to Rill's Nov. 12 conviction and sentencing was frustrating for authorities, Mr. Brewer said.

Rill originally was scheduled to face trial on Feb. 4, but his case was postponed until May 12 to give him a chance to receive alcohol counseling. On May 12, Mr. Brewer said, Mr. Barry told Rill that he was facing nine years in prison. Rill apparently left the courthouse before his case was called that day, leading to a bench warrant for his arrest.

Rill was arrested in September in Pennsylvania. He was held without bond in the Carroll County Detention Center until his conviction Thursday.

Rill's conviction involves three cases. His five children have three different mothers, Mr. Brewer said.

A portion of the $17,182 is owed to the women themselves, while a larger portion is owed to the state Department of Social Services, which has paid support because Rill failed to do so, Mr. Brewer said.

Before Rill, two other chronic non-support cases have resulted in jail time. Stanley Turner, 34, was arrested in Pennsylvania in July. Turner, Carroll's so-called Most Wanted Dad," is said to owe more than $31,000 in support to his three children. He was convicted and sentenced to three years in jail in September. He is scheduled to ask for a sentence reduction on Dec. 16.

George C. Smith III, who was extradited from Florida in February. entered into a plea agreement on April 8, in which he was convicted of one count of criminal non-support and sentenced to two years in state prison. He owes more than $13,000 in back support.

While Carroll County hasn't resorted to the roundups of child-support scofflaws done in Baltimore and in Harford and Baltimore counties, more than 100 delinquent fathers have been arrested since August.

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