Former state senator files bankruptcy in effort to get out of jail for child support non-payment

Jeremy Hutchinson on Friday, his second day in jail, filed for voluntary bankruptcy and appealed the contempt order that incarcerates him indefinitely to the Arkansas Supreme Court, measures that should get him out of jail within a week at most without having to pay $524,000 in child support arrears for his freedom, his lawyer said Friday.

Clinton Lancaster, the Benton lawyer who brought a successful paternity action in Independence County against presidential son Hunter Biden, took on Hutchinson’s case Friday. Lancaster said Hutchinson’s Chapter 13 bankruptcy declaration carries a federal stay of the state-court divorce proceedings that landed Hutchinson in jail on Thursday.

“You can’t put people in jail for their debts once they file for bankruptcy … so [release] is a matter of time,” Lancaster said, describing Hutchinson’s incarceration as “debtor’s prison.””We want to make it clear that Jeremy is not running from having to pay his debts. He has incurred a lot of judgments and things of that nature and he just needs relief.”

Bankruptcy will allow Hutchinson, 48, to discharge some portions of the divorce-related debt ascribed to him by the court, but not what he owes in child support and not whatever financial penalties he incurs for his crimes, Lancaster said. Further, Hutchinson, a father of three, wants to pay his child support but needs the structure provided by bankruptcy proceedings to be able to do so, he said.

The Supreme Court has taken on Hutchinson’s appeal as an emergency action, with the first responses due on Wednesday, according to Lancaster, a Saline County election commissioner appointed by the Republican Party, who is known for taking up conservative causes, including working on behalf of former President Donald Trump in challenging the results of the Wisconsin election.

Lancaster said he had hoped to have Hutchinson released on Friday but now expects all of that court action to result in an order freeing Hutchinson by the end of the week at the latest, given that Monday is the New Year’s Day holiday.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray found that the former state legislator, due to be sentenced in February on federal bribe-taking and tax-fraud counts, has been since September 2018 shirking the financial commitments he had promised to his former spouse and their children in the 2011 divorce that ended their 12½-year marriage.

Among those obligations were health-insurance expenses for the children, the costs of their college tuition and summer camp, life insurance to benefit his former spouse and $10,500 in monthly child support.

Gray ruled Hutchinson in contempt of court for non-payment on Thursday and ordered him jailed until he came up with most of the money he owed, $524,000, to be released from the Pulaski County jail.

She raised the amount Hutchinson owed on Friday, by ordering the Little Rock Republican to pay another $51,000 to cover his ex’s legal expenses to bring him to court in March 2021 to force him to live up to the terms of their divorce.

It has been an 18-month battle, with ex Stephanie Anne Hutchinson, represented by lawyer Jocelyn Stotts, ultimately due $629,898, according to the judge, not counting the legal-expense award, which brings that amount to $680,898, plus interest.

In his Supreme Court petition, Hutchinson states that Gray told him that if he could not get the money, his family could afford to pay. The pleading claims the judge overlooked how Hutchinson has been making partial payments to his ex-wife while also disregarding evidence that Hutchinson is broke and working only as a food-delivery driver for Doordash and Grubhub.

Hutchinson, who gave up his law license in July 2019 after pleading guilty to federal bribery and tax fraud charges, represented himself over the past month, stating that he had to because he ran out of money in November to pay his lawyers.

Lancaster is at least the fourth lawyer Hutchinson has had during the past six years. His previous lawyers have included Jack Wagoner, former law partner Nate Steel and Allison Allred.

Lancaster said he could not divulge specifics about how he came to represent Hutchinson beyond saying a friend had asked him to take up Hutchinson’s case. He said he is working separately from Hutchinson’s federal defense attorneys.

The nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson and son of former U.S. Senator Tim Hutchinson, Jeremy Hutchinson remarried in 2018. He served two terms in the state House from March 2000 to January 2007, then two terms in the state Senate from January 2011 until he resigned in August 2018 when he was indicted by a federal grand jury.

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