A Tennessee judge is taking the Los Angeles Times and other news outlets to task for publishing reports last month that said a Knoxville man had 30 children and was struggling to make child support payments for all of them.
Turns out 32-year-old Desmond Hatchett -- who has been dubbed "Octodad" in the media -- owes child support only for 24 children.
"What he is officially, legally responsible for is 24 children," Knox County Juvenile Court child support magistrate Stan Briggs told The Times on Friday. "The 30 figure is apparently something [Hatchett] may have said in a TV interview a few years ago. ... Twenty-four kids is the legally established number we have here."
Earlier in the week, the judge admonished The Times for picking up on this report and video posted by Memphis, Tenn., television station WREG. The report was in turn picked up by other media outlets, and then it went viral.
Journalists from as far away as Europe have been trying to line up interviews with Hatchett. A local radio station offered to pay for a vasectomy, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
The WREG story said that Hatchett was trying to catch a break on his monthly child support payments, some of which were as little as $1.49 because Hatchett wasn't making much money.
Briggs said none of that is true -- and that Hatchett hasn't made a court appearance on his child support cases since 2009. That's because he's been in prison on an aggravated assault charge.
"I think they spelled Desmond's name right," Briggs quipped about the media coverage in an interview with the Knoxville paper. "That was it. Basically everything in the (Times and WREG) story was incorrect."
Moreover, Briggs told The Times on Friday that the media had no business writing about Hatchett in the first place. "He doesn't need to be getting publicity for this kind of conduct. We’ve got 24 children that don’t have the benefit of child support. It’s really a tragedy, pure and simple," Briggs said.
So how did this 24-30 discrepancy happen? Efforts to reach WREG were unsuccessful Friday. If that changes, we will update this post.
Briggs said he believed an earlier report about Hatchett's number of children was somehow recycled and updated.
We have also corrected our two earlier stories on Hatchett, here and here.
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