Criminal Justice

Lawyer Freed After Spending 14 Years in Jail on Contempt Charge

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A Pennsylvania lawyer has been freed after spending more than 14 years in jail for refusing to give his ex-wife more than $2.5 million in a divorce settlement.

H. Beatty Chadwick, a 73-year-old former corporate lawyer, told the Associated Press he couldn’t pay the money. “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,” he said. He has previously maintained the money was lost in bad overseas investments.

But the judge who freed Chadwick, Joseph Cronin of Delaware County, said he believed that Chadwick had the money, but there was little chance he would ever pay, making his continued imprisonment unjustified.

The Philadelphia Daily News characterizes the case this way: “H. Beatty Chadwick is either the most hardheaded lawyer in America or a poor sap who lost 14 years of his life to a money-grubbing ex-wife and cold-hearted judges.”

The Daily News said Chadwick is “reportedly a control freak who would ration his spouse’s toilet-paper usage and designate specific times for sex.” The Philadelphia Inquirer also has a story.

The 14-year imprisonment is believed to be the longest term served for a civil contempt charge, according to AP.

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