Thibodaux Father of 23 Upset by Facebook Post

John DeSantis, WWL-TV (New Orleans), January 23, 2011

Larry Luther didn’t see the Facebook post by a Terrebonne Parish child-support hearing officer about a barroom bouncer appearing before him who has 23 children and “too much time on his hands.”

But people who read a Courier and Daily Comet story containing questions about the posting’s propriety had little trouble determining who the posting was about and called Luther to tell him.

Now the 41-year-old grandfather says he is preparing to file a Louisiana Judiciary Commission complaint against the hearing officer, William Dunckelman.

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Dunckelman has de-activated the Facebook page that includes the post, which never mentioned Luther by name but which judicial-ethics experts say likely crossed acceptable lines of conduct such judges are obligated by law to uphold.

“Just had a fellow leave child support court. He works as a bouncer and has twenty-three (23) children!,” the post reads. “Of course he gets paid cash and thus pays no (0) taxes. I think he needs another job as he has way too much time on his hands! What do you think?”

What Luther thinks is that the post has negative and unfair implications. His two youngest children are 3 years old. There are three 14-year-olds and the rest are in their upper teens and in their 20s. He fathered his oldest child when he himself was 17.

“Even with the number of children I have, I am a very supportive father,” Luther said Friday after calling to tell his side of the story. “Sometimes I have no rest tending to those kids.”

Luther’s Jan. 6 appearance before Dunckelman was in regard to only one of his children. The court got involved after the 3-year-old’s mother, 23-year-old Courtney Danielle Lewis, was arrested in January 2010 on a charge of second- degree cruelty to a juvenile. Authorities alleged she threw the boy against a couch, which resulted in a fractured leg.

DAY IN COURT

Luther was not involved in the incident. Because the boy was placed in state custody, the state filed against Luther for child support, resulting in his appearance before Dunckelman.

Luther said his day in court–even without the Facebook posting–was problematic. Dunckelman pronounced in open court that he thought Luther had too much spare time during the day, then ordered child-support payments of $299.25 per month, as well as what the court said were arrears of $52.50.

The dollar amount ordered is not Luther’s primary concern. Rather, he said, it is Dunckelman’s recommendation, written on the support order, that he has trouble with. He also resents that Dunckelman handed him job applications for the Wendy’s and Subway restaurant chains, which he maintains he does not need.

Dunckelman’s recommendation was that Luther perform a job search 10 times per week and that four of the jobs for which he applied be at fast-food restaurants.

“I am a grown man and, I am very supportive,” Luther said. “I am not poor and I do make it. I don’t need him to tell me I need to get a fast-food job as long as my obligations are met.”

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ENFORCING THE RULES

Fathers whose incomes can’t be verified by the court pose problems, he said.

“My job is to make sure individuals pay their child support,” Dunckelman said. “The majority comes out of the income-assignment order which ensures that payments are taken out before any other wages are paid. We insist that the father find gainful employment. The state mandates that I order them to produce hospitalization insurance on their children. They cannot get insurance unless they have gainful employment through an employer.”

Handing out job applications, Dunckelman said, is part of ensuring that dads who need work get help finding it.

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‘HIS BLESSINGS’

Luther’s position, that he is an involved and dedicated father to his 23 children and should thus not be characterized as a deadbeat dad, is shared by mothers of his children who were interviewed this week.

Rasheedra Mahoney, 32, is mother to three of Luther’s children–Quarneisha, 14, Ty’quial, 10, and Larryel Mahoney, 9.

“He has a lot of kids, but he also that is how he gets his blessings. Every dollar he gets through his hands goes to his kids. I have never seen one of them neglected,” the Houma nursing assistant said. {snip}

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