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State v. Barton

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

March 6, 2018

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
STANFORD GLEN BARTON, JR., Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Buchanan County, Missouri The Honorable Rebecca Spencer, Judge

          Before: James Edward Welsh, P.J., Alok Ahuja, and Anthony Rex Gabbert, JJ.

          Edward Welsh, Presiding Judge

         Stanford Barton appeals his conviction, following a jury trial, on one count of the class D felony of criminal nonsupport (§ 568.040, RSMo[1]), for which he was sentenced to two years' incarceration. We affirm.

         Background

         In December 2014, the State charged Barton with the class D felony of criminal nonsupport under section 568.040, for knowingly failing to provide adequate support in March 2014, for his son ("Son"), whom he was legally obligated to support, and for amassing an arrearage in excess of twelve monthly child support payments. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, State v. Baumruk, 280 S.W.3d 600, 607 (Mo. banc 2009), the following evidence was presented at Barton's trial.

         Barton married Son's mother ("Mother") in July 1997, and Son was born five years later in May 2002. The couple separated the following November, and Son remained in Mother's custody. When the marriage was dissolved in December 2005, Mother was awarded sole legal and physical custody of Son. Prior to the dissolution, the court had ordered Barton to pay Mother $602 per month in temporary child support. The dissolution decree ordered Barton to pay $841 per month in child support, retroactive to the petition filing date. The amount was based on the finding that Barton was capable of earning at least $3, 400 per month. At the time of the dissolution, Barton owed Mother over $24, 000 in child support.

         The State introduced a child support Payment History Report at trial. It reflected that Barton was over $28, 000 in arrears by March 2006 and was again in arrears from July 2010 until November 2011, at which time he owed $4, 100. Both those arrearages were eventually satisfied by garnishments on Barton's savings accounts. Barton's final arrearage (for which he was charged in March 2014) began in November of 2012 and continued until he had amassed an arrearage of over $10, 200. Mother testified that Barton did not pay any child support or in any way provide for Son in March 2014, and she confirmed that his arrearage exceeded twelve monthly payments by that time. Mother stated that she had worked two part-time jobs to provide for Son. She was unaware that Barton had undergone any back surgeries.

         Barton testified that he had worked as an electrician and received job assignments from the local union until 2013. He admitted that he had prior convictions for larceny in the 1980s, a DUI in 1999, and "a domestic" offense in 2012 or 2013. Barton agreed that he was ordered to pay $841 per month in child support and that he "knew in March of 2014 that [he was] not providing any support for [Son]." Barton claimed that he had suffered a back injury at work in February 2013, and he introduced his medical records. He stated that he had sought medical treatment for over a year before having back surgeries in April and June 2014, had been declared "disabled" by two doctors, and was unable to work due to his disability. Barton claimed to have received temporary disability payments from his union from February 2013 through October of 2013, but no evidence was introduced as to the amount of those payments. He claimed to be seeking Social Security disability but had not been awarded any by the time of trial in August of 2016. Barton also "pursued worker's comp, but nothing ever came of it, " he said.

         Following Barton's testimony, the trial court overruled his motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of all the evidence. During closing argument, the State argued that Barton had purposely maintained his inability to adequately support his son. The jury ultimately convicted Barton of the class D felony of criminal nonsupport and, following the punishment phase of the trial, recommended a sentence of two years in prison.

         At sentencing several weeks later, defense counsel argued for leniency, stating that Barton was now working, had $990 garnished from his paychecks, and had obtained insurance on Son. The State noted that, although Barton had "suddenly" decided that he could work, he still owed $34, 187 in back child support. The trial court overruled Barton's post-trial motion for judgment of acquittal or for a new trial and sentenced him to two years in prison.

         Point I: "Good Cause"

         In his first point, Barton argues that the trial court erred in overruling his motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of all the evidence and sentencing him on his conviction for criminal nonsupport. He claims that he presented sufficient evidence to prove his affirmative defense of "good cause" by a preponderance of the evidence by establishing that he had a legitimate "substantial reason" for being unable to provide support, i.e., his disability.

         Standard ...


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