Man gets time in refusal to pay child support

Posted March 24, 2010, at 8:14 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A federal judge has sentenced a Florida man to a year and a day in prison for refusing to pay child support in Maine.

U.S. District Judge John Woodcock on Tuesday also ordered John C. Carlson, 57, of Venice, Fla., to pay $44,000 in back child support. In addition, Woodcock ordered Carlson to report to prison on April 20, according to court documents.

Carlson’s court-appointed attorney has appealed the sentence to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

A jury convicted Carlson in October after four days of testimony. Jurors deliberated for less than an hour and found that Carlson had not made a single child support payment since his divorce in 2004.

He faced up to two years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Under the prevailing federal sentencing guideline, the recommended sentence was between a year and three months and a year and nine months in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gail Malone said Wednesday that she urged Woodcock to sentence Carlson to the high end of the guideline range.

Carlson was prosecuted under the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act passed by Congress in 1998, according to court documents.

In a sentencing memorandum, Carlson’s attorney, Michael Whipple, argued that the original divorce decree was unreasonable. The attorney urged the judge to sentence his client to less than a year in prison.

The sentence of a year and a day will allow Carlson to earn good time and possibly be released after serving 85 percent of his sentence, according to Malone.

The case was tried in U.S. District Court rather than state court because Carlson lives outside Maine; but his ex-wife and daughter, now 19, live in the state. It also was handled in federal court because the amount he owes in back child support is more than $10,000 and has accrued over more than two years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case.

Carlson was indicted in September 2008 by a federal grand jury in Bangor. After a warrant was issued, he was arrested in Florida. He made an initial court appearance in Florida, where he was informed of the charge against him and posted bail. The next month in Maine, he pleaded not guilty to the charge of willful failure to pay child support. Until he begins serving his sentence, Carlson remains free on $50,000 bail, which was posted by his current wife, who used her home in Florida as security.

Carlson and his ex-wife were married in Massachusetts in 1982, according to court documents. He moved to Maine in 1987, his wife followed in 1989, and their daughter was born in 1990. The family lived in Caribou, according to court documents.

His wife filed for divorce in October 2001 in Aroostook County, according to documents filed in federal court. Carlson, an engineer, filed a financial statement as part of the divorce proceedings stating that he earned nearly $57,000 in 2000 and listed assets in excess of $600,000, including real estate, vehicles, personal property and retirement accounts.

Despite a court order not to dispose of marital assets, Carlson in 2003 withdrew more than $100,000 from one of the retirement accounts and deposited it out of state in the name of the woman who is now his wife, according to court documents. He has used that money to live on in Florida for the past six years, the prosecution argued at trial.

In January 2004, Maine District Court Judge Ronald Daigle ordered Carlson to pay $132 a week in child support and $11,682 in back child support retroactive to when the divorce petition was filed. Carlson never made a payment, according to court documents.

He also, according to court documents, no longer owns any property in his name and took other steps to hide his assets.

Defense attorney Whipple argued at trial that his client has no assets, no income and significant health problems that keep him from working as an engineer. Carlson is employed in Florida at a discount department store for minimum wage, according to court documents, and cares full-time for his elderly mother, who lives in Venice, Fla.

His current wife, whom Carlson married in 2003 before his divorce was final, according to the prosecution, owns a home in North Port, Fla., about 15 miles south of Venice, Fla.

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