First, victim of a thief, then a victim of the state

August 25, 1996|By MICHAEL OLESKER

WHEN DANNY Williams discovered $800 missing from his Franklin Avenue home, in Brooklyn, he had a pretty good idea who'd stolen it: a fellow named William Hunter, who was standing in the Glen Burnie Moose Lodge a few nights later and spending money with both hands while Williams watched him in anger and disbelief.

"That's my money you're spending," Williams said.

"I didn't take your money," Hunter replied.

They knew each other because Williams had previously seen Hunter around the Moose lodge and taken pity on him. Hunter was broke and needed a place to live. Williams was between marriages, his kids were grown, so he had a spare bedroom at his home. He let Hunter sleep there for a few months -- until the day he noticed the $800 was missing, and also noticed Hunter was gone, leaving only his clothes behind.

Now, at the Glen Burnie Moose Lodge a few nights later, Williams spotted Hunter and demanded his money back. Hunter said he hadn't taken it.

"I want to come up to the house and get my clothes back," Hunter said.

"You're not getting your clothes until I get my money," said Williams.

"You want your money," Hunter said defiantly, "take me to court."

So Williams did. After Hunter failed to appear on their first court date, he was tracked down and, on March 3, 1993, found guilty of theft, given three years' probation and ordered to pay all the money back.

That's the good news.

The bad news: More than three years later, Hunter's only gotten $261.92 back.

The worse news: The Maryland Division of Parole and Probation now wants Williams to give the $261.92 back -- to them. Or pay the price for it.

"I was victimized, and now I'm being victimized again," says Williams, a carpenter who's on the executive board of the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Order of the Moose and thought he was acting in the community spirit of the organization when he gave Hunter a break.

Now, he'd like a break from the state of Maryland.

When Hunter was ordered to repay the $800, he was instructed to send the money to the Division of Parole and Probation, which would cash the check and then send a separate check to Williams. It's a routine bookkeeping procedure.

Seven months after he was found guilty, Hunter finally sent $261.92 to Parole and Probation. That was Oct. 18, 1993. Two days later, Parole and Probation sent their own check for $261.92 to Williams, who cashed it.

He never got another check.

But now, nearly three years later, he's gotten a letter from Parole and Probation, declaring, "Unfortunately, William Hunter stopped payment on the check he had sent on 10/18/93. Hunter has since absconded from supervision and cannot be located. It is therefore regretfully necessary to request that you return the $261.92 sent to you on 10/20/93."

"Can you believe this?" Danny Williams was asking last week. "Three years later, they make this discovery. I told them, 'What are you going after me for? Go after the person who wrote the check.' I told them I still wanted the rest of my $800. They told me, 'You're taking this the wrong way.' Well, how am I supposed to take it?"

In fact, this isn't a request on the state's part. It's an order. A letter from William L. Falck, field supervisor for Parole and Probation's Glen Burnie office, notes:

"If payment is not made within 30 days, the matter will be referred to the Central Collection Unit, which would result in a 17 percent charge being added to the $261.92 due."

So let's get this straight: Parole and Probation sends a check to the victim Williams, which he cashes. But Hunter stops payment on his check to Parole and Probation. Parole and Probation can't find Hunter. And, instead of looking for him, they want Williams to give them back money originally stolen from him, to cover their own embarrassment and expenses -- three years later.

"It's a crazy case," admits field supervisor Falck. "We've had a warrant out for Hunter for three or four years. Our bookkeeper released money to the victim, when she should have waited until the check was cashed."

Last week, a friend told Williams he'd spotted Hunter at a bar in Baltimore County. Williams called Anne Arundel County police, who'd handled the original complaint. They told him to call Baltimore County police. So he did, though no arrest has been made.

As reinforcement, Williams called Parole and Probation and told them Hunter had been spotted. A Parole and Probation spokeswoman, Cynthia Quimby, said Friday: "We've given the case to Anne Arundel police and asked them to serve a warrant."

But they're the ones who told Williams it was now a Baltimore County matter.

"Oh," said Quimby.

So here we are, three years after Hunter's conviction, and nobody's certain where he is or who should look for him.

Only one thing is certain: Somehow, Danny Williams, victim, is being nailed again. Give us the $261.92 in 30 days, he's told, or we come after you. They should only look so hard for William Hunter.

Pub Date: 8/25/96

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