Lawyer jailed in divorce battle is released after 14 years
Sunday 12 July 2009
A lawyer has been released from prison after serving 14 years for contempt of court because he refused to hand over millions of dollars in a bitter divorce battle.
It was the longest imprisonment on a civil contempt charge in US history, and prompted dozens of appeals to county, state and federal courts, twice reaching the US Supreme Court.
H Beatty Chadwick, now 73, was jailed in April 1995, accused of hiding $2.5m (£1.5m) from his ex-wife during divorce proceedings. Chadwick maintained he lost the money in bad investments. In 2006, before the economic downturn, experts estimated the money would be worth more than $8m.
Chadwick was released by Delaware County Judge Joseph Cronin, who decided that his continued incarceration had lost its coercive effect and would not result in him handing over the money.
Chadwick insisted on Friday that he was unable to pay the money and said there should be time limits on jailing people for contempt. He added: "If I had been convicted of murder in the third degree in Pennsylvania, I would have been out in half the time I was in jail."
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