Federal judge forces Rison into bankruptcy

By Ron Fonger

FLINT — A federal judge has forced Flint native and former NFL star Andre Rison into bankruptcy because of overdue child support debts.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Daniel S. Opperman issued an order Wednesday forcing Rison into chapter 11, a move that should give the mothers of Rison’s children first crack at what remains of a $100,000 severance paid to the former all-pro by the Oakland Raiders.

If that news wasn’t bad enough for Rison, a graduate of then Flint Northwestern High School, the court-appointed receiver who has dogged him for years looking for hidden assets that could satisfy child support debts, said Monday he now wants to be appointed trustee in the bankruptcy case.

A trustee will help determine — with or without Rison’s help — whether he has assets to liquidate and the extent of his child support and other debts, said receiver David Findling.

“The bankruptcy trustee picks up where I left off,” Findling said. “I’d like to … I intend to be (the trustee)… . We will be doing some sleuthing.”

Three creditors tied to two child support cases against Rison filed the petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Flint last month, claiming they are collectively owed more than $105,000 in fees and child support, including a $58,435 claim from ex-wife Tonja Rison.

One of the three creditors — Atlanta attorney Randall Kessler — said he’s not surprised the filing was necessary.

Kessler claims Rison owes him attorney fees of $46,215 for his work collecting child support for Raycoa Handley, a Flint native who is the mother of two of Rison’s other children.

“(An involuntary bankruptcy) only makes sense,” Kessler said in an e-mail Monday. “Everything about getting Mr. Rison to pay has been involuntary.

“We had to have the court order him incarcerated over and over to get the child support he owed so it is no surprise that he must now be forced into bankruptcy to collect the balance of what is owed. If he had ever simply contacted us and asked how we could work it out, we would have been done a long time ago.”

The Flint Journal could not reach David Kallman, a Lansing attorney who has represented Rison, for comment Monday. It’s uncertain where Rison is living, but notice of the bankruptcy filing was sent to three separate addresses, including a home in Mt. Morris Township and addresses in Oakland, Calif., and Alpharetta, Ga.

According to papers filed in the bankruptcy case, the Raiders withheld part of the Rison severance to pay taxes and deposited the remaining amount with a California court.

The team then asked the court to decide which creditors should receive the money, Findling said. The bankruptcy filing now moves the child support debts to the top of the payment list, he added.

Rison was a five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver who last played professional football for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League in August 2005.

He told The Flint Journal in February that he was busy with music and film projects.