Even though a DNA test proved Carnell Alexander is not the father of a child a woman claimed was his on a welfare benefits form, the state of Michigan says he must pay $30,000 to settle the case — or go to prison.
“I feel like I’m standing in front of a brick wall with nowhere to go,” Alexander told Detroit news station WXYZ.
Alexander’s troubles began all the way back in 1991 when Detroit police arrested him during a traffic stop.
“You’re a deadbeat dad. You’re a wanted man. You’re coming with me,” the arresting police officer said, Alexander recalled.
But the man was baffled.
“I knew I didn’t have a child, so I was kind of blown back,” Alexander told WXYZ.
It turned out that an ex-girlfriend of Alexander’s had put his name down as the father of her child — born in 1987 — in order to receive welfare benefits.
Alexander unknowingly racked up $60,000 in unpaid child support because he did not know he is listed as a dad. Especially in cases involving welfare benefits, Michigan, like many states, typically deals aggressively with men listed as fathers on claims forms.
By then, it was too late for Alexander to do anything about the huge bill.
“They told me it was too late to get a DNA test,” Alexander told WXYZ.
But he got a test anyway, and the results showed that Alexander was not the father of his ex-girlfriend’s child.
The judge was unsympathetic.
“She told me that regardless of what the DNA says, because I didn’t contact her 24 years ago, it’s gonna stick. Case closed. I gotta pay for the baby,” Alexander said.
Part of the hang-up stems from either a mix-up in court paperwork or a falsely signed court summons. Alexander says that he was never served with a court summons which would have informed him of the paternity claim and the debt.
According to WXYZ, a process server signed a form claiming Alexander refused to sign for receipt of the summons. But Alexander could not have refused to sign for the document. He was in jail for another offense at the time.
“I wasn’t there so I couldn’t refuse to sign,” Alexander said. “I had no knowledge that I had a child support case pending against me.”
According to WXYZ, Alexander will go to jail if he does not pay the $30,000. He was let off the hook for the amount he supposedly owed in child support. But the court still wants him to pay money doled out to his ex-girlfriend in welfare payments.
Alexander says he will continue to fight the bad rap.
The woman who falsely put Alexander’s name down as the father of her child is now speaking out in support of him.
“I had to turn to welfare to get assistance to take care of them and had to put him down as the father. That was the only way I could get assistance,” she told WXYZ.
“Everything is my fault that I put him through. He shouldn’t have to pay it at all. I want everything to go away for him so he can go on with his life.”