A Georgia man spent more than a year behind bars for failing to pay child support for a child that wasn't his, but he was released after DNA tests showed he wasn't the father.
Frank Hatley, 50, had been jailed since June 2008 for not making payments, but two separate DNA tests in the last nine years showed he was not the father of the boy, who is now 21.
Southern Center for Human Rights attorney Sarah Geraghty won Hatley's release at a hearing Wednesday in Superior Court. A court order has also relieved him of his financial obligation to the Georgia Department of Human Resources.
"State child support officials have shown extraordinarily poor judgment in Mr. Hatley's case," Geraghty said.
Although Hatley was freed from making future payments after a 2001 hearing, Superior Court Judge Dan Perkins had ordered him to continue making $16,000 in back payments. He paid $6,000 of that before being laid off from his job.
Perkins ordered Hatley's immediate release Wednesday after determining that he was indigent. Although he was released, Hatley's paternity case is still unresolved. No future hearings are scheduled.
"Out of it all, I just feel like justice should be served for me in this case," Hatley told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shortly after his release. "I shouldn't have to keep being punished for a child that is not mine."
Hatley had a relationship with Essie Lee Morrison, who had a baby in 1987 and told Hatley the child was his, according to court records. The couple never married and split up shortly afterward.
In 1989, Morrison applied for public assistance through the state Department of Human Resources. Hatley agreed to reimburse the state because he believed the boy was his.
Documents show Hatley paid at least $9,500.
But in 2000, DNA samples showed the two were not related, according to court records. A test earlier this month confirmed that.
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