Monrovia – Just days after declaring his intentions to contest the Liberian presidency for only the second time in his political life, football legend George Weah could be staring down at a major legal hurdle in the U.S. State of Georgia.
The Newton County Court in the U.S. State of George has issued a warrant for the arrest of Montserrado County Senator George Manneh Weah for child abandonment. The petition was filed by his 10-year-old daughter's mother, Meapeh Gono Glay.
Under Georgia law, child abandonment is automatically treated as a felony if the non-custodial parent, which would be Mr. Weah in this case, is out of state. And, if found guilty, Mr. Weah could face up to 12 months in prison.
FrontPageAfrica has learned that the Newton County Sheriff’s Office has put out a Warrant Outstanding Report out on Mr. Weah, the political leader of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) who is due to appear in court on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.
A Felony Offense
According to court documents in possession of FrontPageAfrica, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, the Newton County Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Senator Weah for child abandonment.
The petition was filed by his 10-year-old daughter's mother, Meapeh Gono Glay. Under Georgia law, child abandonment is automatically treated as a felony if the non-custodial parent, which would be Senator Weah in this case; is out of state. And, if found guilty, Senator Weah could face up to 12 months in prison.
A bench warrant is usually issued by a judge presiding after a defendant fails to show up in court to answer for charges. It is the equivalent of a contempt order.
In this case the offense may have been egregious enough for the judge to deem it a felony, which appears to be the case against Mr. Weah. This occurs when the defendant has missed multiple court dates or has refused to comply with an order of the court.
FrontPageAfrica has learned that on March 2, 2016, Mr. Weah reportedly should have received the warrant but reportedly hired a lawyer to take in a check of one hundred and sixty U.S. dollars claiming that he only makes one thousand ninety U.S. dollars as Senator in Liberia and that he has two other minor kids born in 2000 and 2012 and can only afford to pay US$160.
Senators Salary a Mystery
Salaries for Senators and legislators are somewhat of a mystery in Liberia with no one knowing exactly how much lawmaker make, including benefits of lawmakers.
However, in a Voice of America interview last year, two Liberian lawmakers – Togba Mulbah and George Mulbah dismissed suggestions and criticisms that they make too much money while ordinary Liberians struggle daily to make ends meet.
It is estimated that members of the Liberian legislature make about US$12,000 a month, including benefits.
But the two representatives both from vote-rich Bong County claimed that their take home pay is far less than what is out there.
“We make 14,000 Liberian Dollars as our basic salary. Then we have 2,000 United States Dollars as transportation allowance; then we have U$1,900. That is what comes to us directly in terms of physical cash.
"The rest of it goes towards other utilities that we use. So, the view held by Liberians in United States is not proven by fact,” said Togba Mulbah.
In contrast, Nigerian legislators receive an annual salary of about US$189,000, which is 116 times the country’s gross domestic product per person, according to the publication. Kenyan lawmakers’ salaries rank second to Nigeria, about US$75,000 a year in addition to other allowances.
FrontPageAfrica has been informed that because the law states that a delinquent parent must have given support in the last 30 days, Mr. Weah reportedly escaped the felony by being untruthful about his income after reportedly failing to make a minimum amount for abandoning his responsibilities for years.
Under the state of Georgia law, a child is considered abandoned or neglect if the child’s basic needs are not met for a period of 30 days or longer.
“This means leaving the child without sufficient nourishment, shelter or clothing. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a parent or guardian left the child naked and hungry on a street corner, but rather he failed to take any steps to ensure her basic needs are met.”
Conviction Could Lead to Jail
The law also states that “if any father or mother willfully and voluntarily abandons his or her child, either legitimate or born out of wedlock, leaving it in a dependent condition, and leaves this state or if any father or mother willfully and voluntarily abandons his or her child, either legitimate or born out of wedlock, leaving it in a dependent condition, after leaving this state, he or she shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than three years. The felony shall be reducible to a misdemeanor.
Any person, upon conviction of the third offense for violating this Code section, shall be guilty of a felony and shall be imprisoned for not less than one nor more than three years, which felony shall not be reducible to a misdemeanor. The husband and wife shall be competent witnesses in such cases to testify for or against the other.”
Georgia State Law(O.C.G.A§17-4-40) sets forth the procedure for the court to follow when someone who is not a Police officer applies for the arrest of another person.
That law requires the court to schedule the application for a hearing and notify the person whose arrest is sought about the hearing.
The judge will decide whether or not to issue an arrest warrant after the hearing.
If the parent whose arrest is sought lives in Georgia, the application must be filed in the county where the child lives. If the parent whose arrest is sought does not live in Georgia, the applicant should seek assistance from the District Attorney’s Office and should not file a warrant application.
FrontPageAfrica has learnt that the May 11 hearing will decide Mr. Weah’ fate.
FrontPageAfrica has also gathered that there was a previous warrant hearing which he narrowly escaped because of the precision of the law.
FrontPageAfrica has learnt that Mr. Weah reportedly demanded a DNA test on the child, 10, and result showed that he was 99.9 percent the father.
According to court documents obtained by FrontPageAfrica, the child’s mother, Meapeh Kou Gono through a lawyer, made the case before a judge who is now tasked with the responsibility to determine whether there is probable cause that Mr. Weah abandoned his parental responsibility.
Under Georgia law most civilian arrest warrant applications are set for a formal warrant application hearing. Under current law, there are very few instances when a criminal arrest warrant can be immediately issued upon the application of a private citizen without holding a warrant application hearing.
Judge Determines Application
If the Judge determines that the application should be set down for a hearing, the court clerk will prepare a court notice document listing the crime alleged and setting the time, date, and location of the hearing. The court clerk will deliver one copy to the warrant applicant at the time of the application.
Mr. Weah. 49, last week announced that he would be embarking on a second quest for the Liberian presidency, telling a crowd of under ten thousand at the party’s headquarters: 'Having heard the cry of our people and seen their plight, I... declare before you my countrymen and the Almighty God that I shall contest the presidency of our beloved country in the 2017 national elections,' Weah, 49, said.
Weah was a household name during a career in Europe spanning nearly a decade and a half, making his mark at A.S. Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain and Marseilles in France, AC Milan in Italy and English sides Manchester City and Chelsea.
Widely considered one of the best players ever to emerge from Africa and in 1995 won European football's Ballon d'Or and was named FIFA's World Player of the Year, becoming the first African to win the awards.
Riding on the coattails of his popularity, Mr. Weah entered the rugged jungle of Liberian politics, to contest the 2005 presidential race, losing a run-off election to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
In 2011, he ran for Vice President on the losing ticket of Winston Tubman. In 2014, Mr. Weah won a seat in the Senate in 2014, defeating President Sirleaf's son, Robert, at the polls.
On his 2017 quest, Mr. Weah has vowed to make fixing the education system, building new clinics and hospitals, reviving agriculture, and combating youth unemployment among his major priorities.
'Over the past 10 years, we have seen that the majority of our people continue to live in abject poverty,' he said on Thursday.
'We remain open to political collaboration and we call on other political parties to join us in realizing this vision. The work begins now.”
Weah, CDC Mum on Charges
Weah has not publicly addressed the charges which have been dogging him for some time now. But the court records have not becoming public meaning it could be a nagging drain on his second presidential run.
According to sources, there have been multiple attempts by Weah and his aides to keep the case from going public but the child’s mother has reportedly been unwilling because support has not been forthcoming.
Weah who was reportedly worth around US$85 million at the height of his playing career, had his last big career payday following his move from AC Milan to Manchester City, in August 2000 on a free transfer on a two-year contract worth £30,000 a week, after reportedly declining the offer of a £1 million pay-off from Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi.
His net worth today is unknown although some estimates put his approximate net worth around US$1.95 million.
On his assets declaration form filled ahead of the 2005 elections, Mr. Weah indicated that most of his wealth was in the US with barely anything in Liberia.