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Anthony Little

Other Michigan 'No Crime' Exonerations
In July 2008, 46-year-old Anthony Little was arrested in Detroit, Michigan on a charge of failing to pay child support from 2001 through 2005.

Little and his wife divorced in 1991 and he was ordered to pay $57 per week in child support for his daughter. The payments were reduced to $35 per week in 1996.

In April 2009, during a pre-trial conference in Wayne County Circuit Court, Little’s defense attorney made a motion to present evidence that Little was physically disabled and unable to work and that he tried, unsuccessfully, to obtain money through other means.

The trial judge denied the motion, saying that failure to pay child support was a “strict liability” offense and that not being able to pay was not a defense. The judge said that the only defense to the charge was “I paid the money.”

Little went to trial in August 2009. His former wife, Kimberly Ruffin-Jones, testified that she had not received payments from 2001 through 2005 and only a few after that.

Little testified that at the time of his divorce in 1991, he was working in the field as a meter reader for DTE Energy Co when he was attacked by two pit bulls and severely injured his back. He returned to work but aggravated the back injury and could no longer work for DTE. He said that he received a worker’s compensation settlement, most of which was used to pay past due child support. Little testified that he was unable to work and could not continue making payments.

In 2006, Little finally qualified for Social Security disability payments and was able to get surgery for his back, but he was still unable to physically work. The disability payments totaled $657 per month. When his daughter died at age 19 in 2007, he used his check to help pay for her funeral.

After closing arguments, the judge gave the jury instructions that did not explain that Little’s inability or ability to pay could be considered in determining whether he was guilty of felony non-support.

On August 20, 2009, a jury convicted Little of non-payment of child support and he was sentenced to five years probation and required to pay $24 per month toward his outstanding child support debt.

Little appealed the conviction and the appeal was delayed while the Michigan Court of Appeals considered the same issue in a similar case involving Selesa Likine, who had been convicted of failing to pay child support to her ex-husband.

Likine was convicted in Oakland County Circuit Court and sentenced to 45 days in jail for failing to make the payments. The prosecution in Likine’s case had similarly argued that inability to pay was immaterial. Likine had been prevented from informing the jury that she had been unemployed after being hospitalized for a mental illness, and that after her release, she had subsisted on Social Security disability payments.

In July 2012, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed Likine’s conviction. The Court held that a defendant in a child support prosecution must be allowed to rebut evidence of non-payment with evidence that it was impossible for the defendant to pay because of circumstances beyond her control, including incarceration, hospitalization or a diagnosed disability.

In October 2012, the Michigan Court of Appeals, relying upon the Michigan Supreme Court's decision in the Likine case, reversed Little’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The court said that “it is unknown whether (Little) would have provided more complete evidence regarding the defense of genuine impossibility had the trial court not erroneously determined and informed him that his only available defense was ‘I paid the money.’”

The Court, quoting the Supreme Court in the Likine case, noted, “Although the Supreme Court emphasized that is a rare defendant who can prove genuine impossibility, we must give (Little) the opportunity to try.”

On January 4, 2013, the prosecution dismissed the charge.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 7/14/2015
Most Serious Crime:Failure to Pay Child Support
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2005
Age at the date of reported crime:43
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No