A Detroit man is facing a choice given him by the state of Michigan. The first option is to pay $30,000 in back child support for a child that is not his. His second option? Go to prison.
But wait, it gets worse. Everything and everyone involved in this story—including a paternity test, the child's mother and the court that has given Carnell Alexander the two options—recognize that the baby isn't his.
"I feel like I'm standing in front of a brick wall with nowhere to go," Alexander told Detroit news station WXYZ.
Alexander told the news station that he learned about a paternity case against him in the early '90s after a police officer called him a deadbeat dad during a traffic stop. The officer also informed him that there was a warrant out for his arrest for unpaid child support.
"I knew I didn't have a child, so I was kind of blown back," Alexander told the news station.
Alexander has been fighting since then to clear his name, with little success. Here is how the story unfolds: The state claims that in 1987 Alexander fathered a baby. The state also claims that it sent several notices to an address on file and that Alexander ignored those notices. Alexander says that he never got the notices because they were sent to an address where he no longer lived. When he heard about the child, he went to court.
"And when you were telling them in court—'That it was not my child'—they told me it was too late to get a DNA test," Alexander told the news station.
At the time, Alexander didn't know the location of the woman who claimed he was the father of the child, and with only sporadic work, lacking a full-time job, he had no money.
He eventually ran into a friend who knew where the woman was, and they got a DNA test. The test proved that Alexander had a 0.00 percent probability of being the child's father. According to the woman, the child's actual father was also in the child's life.
Story should end here, right?
Alexander took all this information to the court, but the judge was unfazed.
"Case closed. I gotta pay for the baby," Alexander told WXYZ.
According to news station, the court hinged its decision on a summons that was reportedly delivered to Alexander's father's house informing him about the paternity case. The process server for the court turned in a document claiming that Alexander was served a summons but refused to sign it.
"I wasn't there. I couldn't refuse to sign," Alexander told the news station.
WXYZ investigated Alexander's claims and found that on the day the server claimed he signed the document, Alexander was a guest of the Michigan Department of Corrections, serving time for a crime he committed as a young man.
So how did all this happen?
Well, years ago, the woman, Alexander's ex, had a baby. She didn't know who the father was, but she knew she needed help caring for the child. A caseworker told her that she had to name the father when she filed papers seeking government assistance.
"That was the only way I could get assistance," the woman, who didn't want to give her name, told the news station. She said she had no idea that the state would go after Alexander for child support.
"Everything is my fault that I put him through," she said.
She even asked to court to forgive his debt, and it did, but only the portion that was to be awarded to her. Alexander still owes around $30,000, according to WXYZ.
Alexander is refusing to pay and is being threatened with jail time.
"We know this is not my child, so let's do what we need to do, what's right," said Alexander.
Read more at WXYZ.