Lawyer Freed after 14-Year Contempt Sentence

Attorney H. Beatty Chadwick was released from a Delaware County, Pa., prison last week after spending 14 years behind bars — for contempt of court.

In 1995, a county judge overseeing Chadwick’s divorce had issued incarceration for contempt — a coercive measure used by judges — after Chadwick failed to deposit $2.5 million in a court-controlled bank account for his wife’s alimony, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Chadwick maintained that he had lost the money in a bad investment overseas.

The imprisonment is a record in the U.S. for contempt.

Contempt is a court order issued by a judge during a trial or hearing, indicating that an individual has shown the court or its proceedings disrespect, such as violating a court order. Under civil contempt of court, the individual may be held indefinitely until the court order is satisfied — without the constitutional protections that criminal courts provide.

During his imprisonment, Chadwick, 73, and his defense attorney Michael J. Malloy repeatedly petitioned for his freedom. After 14 years, the judge realized that the coerce measure had become punitive.

Chadwick, who was a corporate attorney, lost his law license in the state of Pennsylvania during his incarceration, and has no income other than Social Security.

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