A Monroe man could face up to two years in prison for failure to pay child support after a six-person jury rendered a guilty verdict against him following a two-day trial last week.
After about an hour on Jan. 29, the jury found John David “J.D.” Daniel, of Monroe, guilty of failure to pay child support (second offense), which is a felony. Daniel faces up to two years in prison, with or without hard labor.
Daniel was charged with the second offense in February 2018 for failing to pay past due child support, or arrears, of some $28,000 to his ex-wife, Laura Daniel. Laura Daniel has custody of their two sons and filed the complaint against him.
Fourth Judicial District Attorney Steve Tew took the case to trial last week in spite of Daniel paying all arrears prior to the trial date.
The case also was unusual because the district attorney would often dismiss criminal non-support charges against a defendant if they settled the balance, according to Monroe attorney Mennon Campbell Jr., who represented Daniel.
“This kind of case — historically — if you pay it in full, the DA’s office dismisses it,” said Campbell, who previously worked as an assistant district attorney in the Fourth Judicial District.
Daniel’s mother and father, John and Lynn Daniel, took out a loan to pay the arrears before the trial because Daniel had no money of his own.
“His parents borrowed the money,” Campbell said.
Daniel’s parents have been assisting him with child support payments for years now, they said.
Tew made a possible dismissal of charges conditional, Campbell said.
“The DA offered a caveat: if it was dismissed, J.D. would have to give up summer visitation,” Campbell said. “To that we said, ‘No.’”
The case also involved allegations that Laura Daniel’s father, longtime banker Malcolm Maddox, of Monroe, schemed, bullied Daniel, and tried to influence the local justice system — including Tew and a judge — to ruin Daniel’s life.
“I don’t know if Malcolm Maddox has the ear of the DA’s office,” said Campbell, shrugging.
In response to the allegations involving Maddox, Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Wendell Manning recused himself from the case. The case was ultimately assigned to Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Scott Leehy, who presided over the trial.
According to Maddox, his daughter’s relationship with Daniel was not good.
“I would not want this relationship,” Maddox said. “She won’t succumb to his demands.”
Assistant District Attorneys Michael Fontenot and Sean Southern prosecuted the case on Tew’s behalf. After the trial ended, Fontenot told The Ouachita Citizen, “We thank the jury.”
“Is that enough?’
To prove failure to pay child support, the district attorney had to prove Daniel intentionally failed to pay child support for more than six months or failed to pay more than $2,500.
“We proved 11 (months),” Fontenot said. “You saw seven months out of 11 — seven — where he paid nothing.”
Without bank account statements or other financial records, the only record of Daniel’s financial health was his testimony that his bank account was in the negative and he had no money to make the payments, according to Fontenot.
“The basis for that is that he says — he says — he can’t pay,” Fontenot said. “ ‘I can’t pay.’ Is that enough?”
Daniel claimed the district attorney’s office told him he could not bring his income tax returns.
“He lives at home,” Campbell said. “If he had a money tree, do you think he’d be living at home? Sell his golf clubs? Sell his shotgun?”
In other closing remarks, Fontenot argued that Daniel failed to prove how much he earned through his drug testing business, Absolute Diagnostics.
“He’s the only employee, and he doesn’t know anything about it,” Fontenot said.
‘I was negative
all the time’
Daniel was arrested Aug. 24, 2016 for first offense of failure to pay child support. On May 15, 2017, Daniel pleaded guilty to first offense and was placed on two years probation, ordered to pay the $1,403.27 a month plus 5 percent and $150 for a total of $1,623.43 a month, court documents show. According to Lynn Daniel, the amount her son paid each month for child support was based on his former salary as a banker.
At the time of his divorce from Laura Daniel in 2013, Daniel worked at Richland State Bank, from which he was fired in 2014, according to testimony at trial. Daniel described a series of lost work, including a brief stint in lawn care or a job at another bank for several months before trying his hand at selling insurance.
“I had no funds left,” Daniel said.
In light of his financial condition, Daniel noted —with admitted embarrassment — that he moved in with his parents and still lives with them. In 2016, Daniel missed several child support payments.
“Something I’m not proud of,” Daniel said. “I was negative all the time. If you looked at my bank balance, it was always red.”
Beyond a 14-year-old vehicle, Daniel said he owned no assets. Daniel claimed he sold several valuable items, like golf clubs and a shotgun, to make child support payments. When asked whether he owned any houses or rental property, Daniel said, “Nothing.”
“Our family has been helping all along,” said Lynn Daniel, Daniel’s mother. “It’s significant to us because we don’t have gobs of money.”
Lynn Daniel said their family assisted their son with his child support payments because they wanted to avoid seeing their grandchildren forcibly removed from Daniel.
When Daniel’s father, John Daniel, was called to testify, Campbell asked him, “If he wasn’t trying, would you be helping?”
“Absolutely not,” said John Daniel. “He’s trying.”
When asked why he pleaded guilty in 2017 to the first offense of failure to pay child support, Daniel said, “I thought it would make Malcolm and Laura leave me alone.”
In a Nov. 5, 2019 motion to recuse Manning from the case, Campbell argued that Maddox had “repeatedly tried to influence the outcome of this case.”
“Some (of) the acts include but are not limited to the following: Malcolm Maddox approached Mr. Daniel’s attorney and admonished him, using offensive language, for his representation of Mr. Daniel in a previous but similar case before the Fourth Judicial (District) Court,” stated Campbell’s motion. “Malcolm Maddox has been to most of Mr. Daniel’s court dates and has attempted to interrupt attorney client privilege discussions by following Mr. Daniel to different ends of the courthouse while Mr. Daniel and his attorney were trying to discuss the case. Mr. Maddox went as far as to look through a stairwell window at Mr. Daniel and his attorney as they discussed the case. Mr. Daniel and his attorney were (forced) into the stairwell due to Mr. Maddox’s constant attempt at intimidation.”
Maddox “forced a verbal confrontation” with Daniel at a sporting event where Daniel was a coach and his son a player, Campbell claimed.
“Malcolm Maddox verbally threatened physical violence on Mr. Daniel outside of the courthouse on one occasion following a court appearance.”
Maddox might exploit his relationships with Manning or Tew or other members of the Fourth Judicial District Court to gain an advantage over Daniel or intimidate him, according to Campbell.
“Malcolm Maddox has used his position in the community to persuade the District Attorney’s office to continue prosecution of this non-support case even if Mr. Daniel’s family pays off the arrearages in full unless Mr. Daniel is willing to modify the custody agreement and give up his summer time visitation,” stated Campbell’s motion. “Malcolm Maddox is a close neighbor and friend of Judge W. Manning and Mr. Daniel believes that Mr. Maddox will attempt to influence Judge W. Manning both overtly and covertly using societal, political or other means. This may include indirect attempts to influence this Court by asking others to communicate with the court on his behalf or by discussing the case with peers, friends or other associates of Judge W. Manning.”