PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Pennsylvania lawyer was released from prison on Friday after serving what was believed to be the longest imprisonment on a civil contempt charge in United States history.I don't know whether he owed the money, or hid the money, or lost the money, or whatever. What happened here was wrong regardless.
The lawyer, H. Beatty Chadwick, was released from a county prison in suburban Philadelphia more than 14 years after he was jailed for refusing to turn over millions of dollars in a bitter divorce battle. The case prompted dozens of appeals to county, state and federal courts, twice reaching the Supreme Court.
Mr. Chadwick, 73, was jailed in April 1995, accused of hiding $2.5 million from his ex-wife during divorce proceedings. Mr. Chadwick maintained that he lost the money in bad investments.
I believe that a man should be innocent until proven guilty. Chadwick was never charged with a crime. He never had a jury trial.
I also do not believe in debtors prison. He should not be jailed for owing a debt. If they could prove that he has the money, then they could just seize it. If he does not have the money, then he has no power to comply. Either way, jail is not appropriate.
Millions of people have debts that they cannot pay. Either they have a bad mortgage, or they have too much credit card debt. The penalties are foreclosure, bankruptcy, and bad credit scores. Not jail. No man should be jailed for a bad debt.
It doesn't matter that you believe in debtors prisons or not. What matters is that they are illegal, but the system throws men in prison everyday for debts (proven or not). This country is sick, it may never be healed.
The appeals court approved holding this man in jail, so I am not sure it was illegal. But I certainly do not agree with imprisoning a man for 14 years without a trial.
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