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Lawyer Jailed For Contempt Is Freed After 14 Years

samzenpus posted about 5 years ago | from the all-we-need-is-a-little-patience dept.

The Courts 408

H. Beatty Chadwick has been in a staring match with the judicial system for the past 14 years, and the system just blinked. Chadwick was ordered to pay his ex-wife $2.5 million after their divorce. He refused to pay saying that he couldn't because he lost the money in a series of "bad investments." The judge in the case didn't believe him and sent him to jail for contempt. That was 14 years ago. Last week another judge let Chadwick go saying that "continued imprisonment would be legal only if there was some likelihood that ultimately he would comply with the order; otherwise, the confinement would be merely punitive instead of coercive." Chadwick, now 73, is believed to have served the longest contempt sentence in US history.

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408 comments

Well... (3, Funny)

Bin_jammin (684517) | about 5 years ago | (#28770047)

do we get to find his treasure now?

I love that movie! (1)

jbacon (1327727) | about 5 years ago | (#28770079)

Reminds me of Nothing but the Truth [imdb.com] , except his motives were a heck of a lot different. Furthermore, Kate Beckinsale is ridiculously hot.

Never give up the source

I guess (4, Funny)

gubers33 (1302099) | about 5 years ago | (#28770089)

This guy must have really hated his ex-wife.

Why didn't this happen sooner? (5, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | about 5 years ago | (#28770093)

It's seriously scary that this guy was basically in debtors prison for 14 years! Wasn't it a bit obvious after say 6-12 months that the guy either didn't have the money or wasn't going to ever hand it over? I can't believe that the original judge thought it was fair and ok to keep this guy in jail for over a decade on the assumption (not proof) that he was lying.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (2, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | about 5 years ago | (#28770171)

Wasn't it a bit obvious after say 6-12 months that the guy either didn't have the money or wasn't going to ever hand it over?

If he has it - and refuses to pay - in jail he stays. You can't allow mule headed stubbornness to defeat the law.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770213)

As the judge apparently said "continued imprisonment would be legal only if there was some likelihood that ultimately he would comply with the order; otherwise, the confinement would be merely punitive instead of coercive."

Why is he getting out now then?

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (3, Insightful)

Kotoku (1531373) | about 5 years ago | (#28770493)

Because no likelihood that he would ultimately comply with the order exists. He either cannot or will not ever pay up.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (4, Informative)

MindKata (957167) | about 5 years ago | (#28770823)

"Why is he getting out now then" and "He either cannot or will not ever pay up"

They are very good questions. All the links tend to give the same information, so I did some more searching and found this...
"The petitioner, Mr. Chadwick, has been imprisoned without trial for eight years in Delaware County, Pennsylvania for 'civil' contempt because he has been unable to deposit with the court $2.5 million in cash, funds which he maintains were part of an illiquid overseas real estate investment he does not control."
http://www.amatterofjustice.org/amoj/cases/chadwick3.htm [amatterofjustice.org]

This news was from 2003, so its very disturbing if he has been held 14 years without trial?. Also surely they would know after 14 years the legal status of his overseas real estate investments?.

It seems the legal system and government suffers from systemic procedural bureaucracy so bad that its taken years more to final free him, but suffocatingly bad bureaucracy is no excuse to allow the legal system to behave the way we have been lead to believe only happens in police state countries.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (2, Insightful)

Sique (173459) | about 5 years ago | (#28770541)

He didn't get into prison because he was convicted of withholding money, he was in prison because he didn't follow a court order. So the prison was to coerce money out of him, not to punish him for something.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (5, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about 5 years ago | (#28770627)

Does anybody else see this distinction as being rather weak?

IMHO, prison time should require a jury verdict to sustain it. I'm all for punishing people for perjury or interference with the functioning of the courts, but that should be a criminal charge like any other.

This guy spent 14 years in prison based solely on the decision of a single judge, without any kind of trial. That is just over the top.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

tsstahl (812393) | about 5 years ago | (#28770837)

Mod parent up, and deliver chocolates to his/her house.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

sacdelta (135513) | about 5 years ago | (#28770797)

With the recent economy, even if he had the money then, its gone now.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770281)

You're right, the guy should suffer forever because he made the mistake of getting married.

If this doesn't illustrate to men everywhere why getting married is a stupid idea, nothing ever will. You only have everything to lose by doing it. But no "she's not like that!" and "we're really in love and she'd never want anything from me!". Then it all goes south or she cheats on you and decides she wants 50% of everything you have or ever will have and becomes vindictive and spiteful and you end up giving her $2.5m or spending 20% of your life in prison. All because she decided you needed to pay for all those years of pussy after all (sounds like a retro-active hooker to me).

Jut imagine how much more fun you could have had without any commitment and for far less than 50% of everything you'll ever earn? Man, I wish I were a woman. It's no risk and all gain!

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770393)

What? Mine was totally different. We were so in love. Then she turned out to be a cheating ho. Oh, wait, that's exactly what you said. Nevermind, you're right, I surrender.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

gabebear (251933) | about 5 years ago | (#28770365)

I can't tell if you are being facetious... I hope so.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1, Insightful)

MarkvW (1037596) | about 5 years ago | (#28770409)

Nope. The guy SHOULD sit in jail. You can't defy court orders. If you can defy court orders, the system loses all of its terror and, consequentially, all of its power.

If the court loses its power and authority, then people will resort to self-help to resolve their legal problems.

Don't assume that social stability is always a given!

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (4, Insightful)

tsstahl (812393) | about 5 years ago | (#28770477)

I'm a judge. I order you to bend space time with your mind.

In 14 years there was no other way to ascertain if the guy really had the money? Really?

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (0, Troll)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 5 years ago | (#28770539)

If you can defy court orders, the system loses all of its terror and, consequentially, all of its power.

You heard it here first: the US court system is a tool of terrorism.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (3, Funny)

tnk1 (899206) | about 5 years ago | (#28770625)

Thank God then, that we have Gitmo. At least there, people aren't subjected to the US Judicial Terror system.

Let me fix that for you... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770687)

You heard it here first: The US is a tool of terrorism

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

yacc143 (975862) | about 5 years ago | (#28770653)

Ok, the problem is that nothing stops a judge from ordering an impossible.

And impossible is quite a gray area.

It starts from the legal problems (judge in country A orders company to commit crimes in country B, that could lead to fines or even jail times for the employees should the company comply, the US has this tendency to believe their law rules the world, privacy and data protection laws in other countries, who cares),

to the provable (mathematically) impossible, e.g. Mr MarkvW, hand over the decrypted content of /etc/shadow on your server? What that's impossible? Don't believe you. Guess I'll have to find you in contempt.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

Stew Gots (1310921) | about 5 years ago | (#28770671)

You can't allow mule headed stubbornness to defeat the law.

Right. It's not as if the law has anything to do with justice. It's all about the State, or one asshole judge, imposing its will.

And if the law is totally whacked - say forcing men who have been proven via DNA not to be fathers pay child support - too bad. That's the price of "social stability".

Fuck that.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770673)

I'm more bothered by the continuing concept that someone deserves massive amounts of your wealth simply because they married you.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (4, Insightful)

gabebear (251933) | about 5 years ago | (#28770835)

I don't know how you can justify "civil contempt" being an offense where you automatically lose your personal freedoms. If anything, these judgments that seem to come from parallel worlds force people to seek self-help to resolve their legal problems. If the guy had just killed his wife he would have likely gotten out sooner.

"They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - B.F.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770943)

. If the guy had just killed his wife he would have likely gotten out sooner.

I was thinking the same thing. If the guy really had 2.5 million the wife and/or the judge would have been dead meat.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

sckeener (137243) | about 5 years ago | (#28770901)

No. If this were a criminal case, I'd say sure, but it is civil.

For much less than the cost of housing him in prison for 14 years, they could have hired someone to find his assets.

Even then, his ex-wife is just one of many debtors that need to be paid. We have systems for dealing with that and they are out side the prison system.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

plague3106 (71849) | about 5 years ago | (#28770969)

Nope. The guy SHOULD sit in jail. You can't defy court orders.

And what if its not possible for you to obey the court order? I mean, a court can order me to fly to Alpha Centari all it wants, its not something I cna do.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

laron (102608) | about 5 years ago | (#28770443)

After 14 years, that is a pretty big if. Any sane person would have payed after a few months, so IMHO chances are that he didn't have the money and the judge wasted 14 years of his life, never mind a large sum of taxpayers money.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 5 years ago | (#28770529)

Ok, so "stealing" $2.5M from your ex-wife carries a 14 year prison sentence, but robbing a bank of a similar sum probably carries a smaller punishment. How exactly is that just?

How is it that refusing to testify to a court should carry a lifetime prison sentence (if the judge feels so inclined)?

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (3, Insightful)

Slashdot Parent (995749) | about 5 years ago | (#28771013)

Ok, so "stealing" $2.5M from your ex-wife carries a 14 year prison sentence, but robbing a bank of a similar sum probably carries a smaller punishment. How exactly is that just?

How is it that refusing to testify to a court should carry a lifetime prison sentence (if the judge feels so inclined)?

Oh, it's better than that. He could have beaten her to death and gotten a lighter prison sentence.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | about 5 years ago | (#28770693)

Wasn't it a bit obvious after say 6-12 months that the guy either didn't have the money or wasn't going to ever hand it over?

If he has it - and refuses to pay - in jail he stays. You can't allow mule headed stubbornness to defeat the law.

What if he really doesn't have it? I'm curious, since IANAL, are your rights completely stripped away when you are held in contempt? For example, was he not allowed legal council? Could he not make an appeal?

If not, it sounds to me like this guy was given a free background lesson in the United Socialist Soviet America style of communism, which saddens and disheartens me.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | about 5 years ago | (#28770173)

You assume that our justice system makes sense.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

Bigby (659157) | about 5 years ago | (#28770211)

So you are sent to jail for not paying, but let out of jail if you can't pay. Some would say they can just donate all their money to charity, but the court would seize that money.

What would they do if I got a hold of the cash and literally burnt it? Would I avoid jail?

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 years ago | (#28770343)

Depending on the country, you'd do time for burning money.

could have been avoided (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770225)

He should have just told the judge that he spent all the money on hookers and blow.

A judge would understand that.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (-1, Troll)

vandelais (164490) | about 5 years ago | (#28770287)

I can believe it because it is fair.

Any idiot would be able to prove investment losses. Failure to do so is contempt of the court's authority. The court had the right to send this guy to jail for as long as it saw fit. The current judge was wrong to release him based on the false premise that we cannot impose "punitive" measures on criminals. We need to get rid of the outmoded-the-day-it-was-thought-up notion that punishment is to fit the crime. It needs to exceed the crime as to be a deterrent. But this a-hole judge didn't see it that way. A judge can't even incarcerate to issue legitimate punishment anymore!! We can ONLY coerce? WTF?

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (4, Insightful)

brusk (135896) | about 5 years ago | (#28770317)

It's not a sentence for a crime, it's imprisonment for contempt, refusal to comply with a judge's order. They're fundamentally different things.

They're fundamentally different things. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770387)

Not after 14 years.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (5, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about 5 years ago | (#28770567)

I don't get contempt. Why should judges have the power to imprison people at all?

By all means, make lying to a judge a crime. Then when somebody does it, they are charged with it, a jury rules against them, and then they are sentenced to a finite prison term.

Contempt of court essentially allows people to be imprisoned without the consent of a jury - that is just wrong.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

brusk (135896) | about 5 years ago | (#28770843)

It's not about lying, it's about refusing to comply with an order. For example, what if rather than lying a witness simply refuses to answer questions, or even to show up to testify? Or refuses to turn over evidence? It's not perjury, but the state has a strong interest in compelling people to provide evidence, otherwise the legal system would not work. Maybe the current procedure isn't the best imaginable, but I'm not sure that a jury trial is the solution.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

flajann (658201) | about 5 years ago | (#28770965)

It's not about lying, it's about refusing to comply with an order. For example, what if rather than lying a witness simply refuses to answer questions, or even to show up to testify? Or refuses to turn over evidence? It's not perjury, but the state has a strong interest in compelling people to provide evidence, otherwise the legal system would not work. Maybe the current procedure isn't the best imaginable, but I'm not sure that a jury trial is the solution.

You assume that the legal system "works" at all. Nope. It is broken. It's one where it will slam you whether you are innocent or not just so it looks as though "something was done."

Not MY definition of a working legal system!

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

jimicus (737525) | about 5 years ago | (#28770883)

Lying under oath already is a crime - it's called perjury. However, trying someone for perjury requires that you prove your case "beyond reasonable doubt".

If a man claims not to have $2 million (and we assume that if he does he isn't stupid enough to hold it in bank accounts that can be easily traced to him), how on Earth do you prove he's lying "beyond reasonable doubt"?

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (2, Insightful)

lenkyl (1353049) | about 5 years ago | (#28770913)

well for starters you don't jail him for 14 years.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770715)

Refusal to pay and inability to pay are also two fundamentally different things. Assuming the guy is telling the truth (innocent before guilt), then his entire imprisonment was punitive and unjust. He did not have the 2.5 million before, but after some lawsuits he'll probably have it now. It is not contempt of court if he has no means to pay the debt. It will be the burden of the court to prove he had means and refused to pay. Otherwise, he was unjustly imprisoned and is due damages.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 years ago | (#28770401)

Oh yeah, because insane, out of sync punishment as deterrent works so well.

The RIAA sues for amounts that exceed anything sensible, did it stop people from copying? We outright KILL people if they killed someone else, did the killing stop?

If you want to fight crime, fight the reasons to commit it. Unless you're willing to do that, punishment will be no deterrent. It will serve as an act of revenge, it will serve as a tool to ensure the same person will not commit it again, but you will not turn anyone who didn't commit it yet away from it.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | about 5 years ago | (#28770415)

Obviously in this case the "deterrent" failed epically - the fine was never paid. So explain to me how the threat of jail was a deterrent to the defendant in this case??

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (3, Insightful)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | about 5 years ago | (#28770323)

Wouldn't you be willing to do 6-12 months for 2.5 million dollars? That's a large chunk of change, it's hard to say how long a person would be willing to hold out to keep it. And once you've been in for a year your thinking well that would be a huge waste if I gave it up now, I'm sure they'll blink first and let me out soon.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

hodet (620484) | about 5 years ago | (#28770755)

no I wouldn't. freedom is what i place the highest value on.

Re:Why didn't this happen sooner? (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 5 years ago | (#28771059)

It's seriously scary that this guy was basically in debtors prison for 14 years! Wasn't it a bit obvious after say 6-12 months that the guy either didn't have the money or wasn't going to ever hand it over?

That's not even the scary part. The scary part is that, if you don't believe in the criminal justice system, and refuse to be judged by it (say, without the judge sitting down with you as a reasonable adult and coming to some mutual understanding), they'll just take your life away anyhow. So basically, you're entitled to justice as long as you play along with THEIR definition of justice.

Why is this slashdot worthy? (2, Insightful)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | about 5 years ago | (#28770135)

It's not like this is an RNO story. Chadwick wasn't imprisoned for taking a moral stand. Divorce isn't especially nerdy. What's the relevancy to my life that this story brings?

I'm not trolling, either; I just want to know if there's some angle that I'm missing.

Re:Why is this slashdot worthy? (5, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | about 5 years ago | (#28770159)

He was imprisoned because the just -though- he was lying. No proof, just a judge's whim. You can't see how that affects you?

Re:Why is this slashdot worthy? (-1, Offtopic)

anomnomnomymous (1321267) | about 5 years ago | (#28770407)

Mmm, hard choice: Choose to use my modpoints to mod you down (or the GP up), or reply: Let's go for reply.

The GP is not saying that he can't see how it would not affect him: He's saying he wonders why it's on Slashdot: I, for one, agree.

Whereas there have been other stories in Idle which are rubbish, most of the times they at least have -some- relevance to Slashdot (eg. tech-related). This has none whatsoever.
This doesn't mean it's not news at all, since it is: Just not Slashdot news imho.

Stuff like this (and the whole Idle section) makes Slashdot more and more like Digg, where each bullshitty story gets frontpaged if only enough people choose to digg it.
The shame here is that an actual editor selected it to be displayed on the front page: Once again, not something that's supposed to be there.

Now cue the 'You can filter out Idle or choose not to read the article'-comment, but the only reason why I read this article was because I was curious what relevance it had to technology.

Re:Why is this slashdot worthy? (4, Insightful)

LordKronos (470910) | about 5 years ago | (#28770771)

but the only reason why I read this article was because I was curious what relevance it had to technology

Slashdot isn't "Technology news for nerds"...just "News for nerds". And before you jump on that, "nerd" doesn't just mean computer programming or whatever. Nerds have a passion for a variety of topics, and one subject I find they are often passionate about is civil rights/constitutional violations/etc. So open up your nerd horizons. Don't feel the need to be stereotyped into sitting behind your computer with a pocket protector and tape on your glasses. If legal rights isn't your cup of tea, that's fine...we all have our individual interests, so just pass on the story without posting. I promise I'll do the same the next time there's a Firefly story or something.

Re:Why is this slashdot worthy? (1)

Swizec (978239) | about 5 years ago | (#28770181)

Don't piss off the judge when you're getting a divorce because you don't have boobs and will NOT be forgiven. It's valuable advice.

Re:Why is this slashdot worthy? (2, Insightful)

BradleyAndersen (1195415) | about 5 years ago | (#28770229)

Agreed. I can tell you first-hand that walking into Family Court or anything remotely like it (say, Divorce Court) with a penis is grounds for immediate imprisonment.

Re:Why is this slashdot worthy? (5, Insightful)

e9th (652576) | about 5 years ago | (#28770255)

The next time a judge orders you to turn over the passphrases for your SSH/PGP private keys and holds you in contempt until you do so, it will seem very /. worthy.

Re:Why is this slashdot worthy? (1)

Eskarel (565631) | about 5 years ago | (#28770845)

If a judge says you must turn over your SSH/PGP private keys, then you are legally obligated to do so.

You are free to appeal, that's what appeals are for. You're free to fight it, again that's how the system is supposed to work, but if in the end you are ordered to turn over the keys, you are legally obligated to do so.

If you believe that having to turn over those keys is something you cannot live with, you are free to take a stand and refuse to turn them over, that's your right as a human being and one of those rights that no one can take away. You can always refuse to comply or cooperate. Doing so would however be showing contempt for the order of the court, and would be illegal. The government can, would, and should jail you for doing so.

Taking a moral stand is about doing what you believe is the right thing and paying the consequences, not about doing what you want and getting away with it. Too many people in our society forget that.

There's nothing wrong with jailing people for contempt, in this case, or in your hypothetical. The issue in your hypothetical is the judge being able to order that, and it's perfectly justifiable for you to argue that this is not the case and change it, but you're fighting the order, not your punishment for contempt. Personally I think that being forced to turn over your passkeys is probably a violation of your 5th amendment right not to incriminate yourself, and I take issue with any order from a judge forcing anyone to do so, even if that person is obviously guilty of some terrible crime and the only evidence is in those files. I do not however have any problem at all with people being tossed in jail for however long for failing to comply with a court order. If we didn't allow that we'd have far less justice than we have now.

Re:Why is this slashdot worthy? (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 5 years ago | (#28770307)

Slashdot is for nerds. Law is code. Peculiar behavior in code is a possible bug worth looking into. This is pretty peculiar behavior, and we code specialists should examine it to see if it indicates a bug.

Lawyers have a better grasp on the practice of law, but we are pretty good at analyzing the mechanical aspects. The public should take an interest in ensuring that law does not serve only lawyers, and we geeks have a skill that lets us help with that oversight. It's a duty we should take seriously, IMO.

Re:Why is this slashdot worthy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770475)

By that logic, any news is therefore applicable to this site, right.

Re:Why is this slashdot worthy? (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 5 years ago | (#28770601)

By that logic, any news is therefore applicable to this site, right.

Any news which also engages our civic duty, yes.

Just to get you up to speed -- the United States has been in decline for about 25 years, with various tonics to alleviate the symptoms from time to time. Those tonics have let the disease fester, and now we are faced with a very difficult road ahead. We all, not just geeks, need to figure out how our skills can help bring the nation about or we will go down. Worse yet, we're so tied into the global economy that we'll probably start a new dark age if we go down hard enough.

So, yeah, any news which indicates a potential civic bug does belong on Slashdot.

Re:Why is this slashdot worthy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770487)

It's completely fitting. Think of all your geek friends that fell for the first piece of tail that came along and paid attention to them and they were so desperate that they just walked right into it and put everything on the line without thinking about it. See it happen all the time and you can never rationalize with these guys because they're just so thrilled to have a female who gives them attention. And they willingly put their entire income and success on the table for her to take on a whim.

It'd be great if love won out and blah blah blah and bad stuff never happened, but it DOES happen all the time. And how can you say he didn't take a moral stand? What's not a moral stand about "it's my money". I mean, was his wife a prostitute or something? Is that why he owes her the money? Once you're divorced, you have to pay for all those years of sex?

the guys name (0, Flamebait)

BigHungryJoe (737554) | about 5 years ago | (#28770249)

Was "H Beatty Chadwick" - that's a wealthy, old money name if I've ever heard one. He's got the money.

Re:the guys name (1)

haruchai (17472) | about 5 years ago | (#28770301)

Guess you'd make a good judge, with that reasoning

Re:the guys name (1)

tnk1 (899206) | about 5 years ago | (#28770675)

You sir, are in contempt.

Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect 200 dollars.

Stay there for 14 years.

Re:the guys name (1)

dasunt (249686) | about 5 years ago | (#28771005)

The guy's name was "H Beatty Chadwick" - that's a wealthy, old money name if I've ever heard one. He's got the money.

Some days, the concept of trial by a jury of my peers scares me.

Perhaps we should have trial by Magic 8 Ball instead. The Magic 8 Ball will not use my name to judge if I'm guilty or innocent.

Re:the guys name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28771027)

I suggest you do the math : 2.5 million dollars over 14 years makes less than $200,000.- *a year*.

Assuming he made his multi-millions by being a shrewd business-man that ammount of money is sort of pocket-change.

Do you *really* think 14 years of not being allowed to move freely and just pocket-change per year would be worth that ?

Somehow it does not add up (no pun intended).

What a waste of taxpayers money. (5, Insightful)

hattig (47930) | about 5 years ago | (#28770279)

I fail to see where the benefit is in keeping an old man in jail for so long, at taxpayers expense, is.

14 years? I've seen figures of $30,000 PA to keep a prisoner captive. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_average_cost_of_one_prisoner_in_the_U.S [answers.com] .

So we're talking $420,000 so far spent on this man. Instead he could have had assets seized and been forced into work, and paying tax, and having some money garnished. Or his actual money would have shown up after a few years when he thought people weren't looking.

It's not as if he was a danger to people on the street - the number one reason to put someone into jail.

Re:What a waste of taxpayers money. (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | about 5 years ago | (#28770509)

Or his actual money would have shown up after a few years when he thought people weren't looking.

I'm sure that they money will show up again, about 30 seconds after he sets foot in Europe where the ex-wife can't touch it.

LK

Re:What a waste of taxpayers money. (1)

netruner (588721) | about 5 years ago | (#28770595)

You're missing the point - this is just attorneys' arrogance at work (on the public dime, no less). The Bard had it right - they lawyers need to go.

This reminds me of a joke I heard from a court clerk:
Q: Do you know what they call an attorney with an IQ under 80?
A: Your Honor

Re:What a waste of taxpayers money. (1)

tsstahl (812393) | about 5 years ago | (#28770975)

had assets seized and been forced into work

I know the constitution has been a bit of a sieve in recent years. However, there is still an amendment banning forced labor, a.k.a. slavery.

Really, it's true: link [wikipedia.org]

What a surprise, a misleading summary (4, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 5 years ago | (#28770297)

Lawyer Jailed for Contempt Freed After 14 Years

The fact that he was a lawyer has little relation the story - he could've just as easily been a baker, a banker, a doctor...

Re:What a surprise, a misleading summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770421)

he could've just as easily been a baker, a banker, a doctor...

probably not a banker, [s]he'd have got a bailout by now...

Re:What a surprise, a misleading summary (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 5 years ago | (#28770639)

probably not a banker, [s]he'd have got a bailout by now...

I get your current-events joke. Setting that aside, I don't think you can get bailed out of jail for a contempt charge.

Re:What a surprise, a misleading summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770905)

How about setting bail at $2.5 million...

Re:What a surprise, a misleading summary (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770587)

They should also change 'ex-wife' to 'money grabbing bitch'

Re:What a surprise, a misleading summary (1)

tnk1 (899206) | about 5 years ago | (#28770773)

The fact that he was a lawyer has little relation the story - he could've just as easily been a baker, a banker, a doctor...

Actually the fact that he is a lawyer is probably the most important part of this.

You see, the judge is a lawyer too, and he knows that the lawyer in front of him is full of shit and trying to get away with stuff. The only proof required is that he's a lawyer.

Needless to say, throwing all lawyers in jail would be against the interests of the profession in general, so the *real* reason that he's in jail is that the judge is pissed at him for a prank he played on him at the Country Club.

You don't fuck with a man's 6-iron. Especially when he is a judge. You heard it here first.

And what about the judge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770327)

What does it say about the judge that he/she (I'm guessing he) would leave the guy imprisoned for 14 years for contempt? Are we looking at some near-cosmic game of chicken? Is this just a face-off between two enormous egos? Is there nothing in law that prohibits truly insane sanctions such as this? Or that limits the power of a judge to apply them - apprently without any sort of review or oversight? Did the judge just forget the guy? Didn't anybody ever remind him about the guy rotting in jail simply because he didn't do what the judge said to do? I'd really like to hear the judge's rationalization of why this happened.

It's only fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770329)

If his ex-wife wants half of everything she should get to serve half the time in prison.

Prove he has the money? (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | about 5 years ago | (#28770369)

How hard is it to prove he has the money?

Re:Prove he has the money? (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | about 5 years ago | (#28770553)

How hard is it to prove he has the money?

Impossible. The theory isn't that he actually has the money. The theory is that he is in consort with someone who was "managing his investment" and that they are holding his money until after the divorce.

No one believes that he actually has the money, only that he has access to it if he really wants it.

LK

Wow, life fail (1)

squoozer (730327) | about 5 years ago | (#28770381)

This has got to be one of the scariest stories that I've ever read. No trial and not even evidence was necessary to put this guy in jail for 14 years. If that doesn't make you question the legal system nothing will. I think there is need for contempt of court punishments but they seriously need to be looked at in light of this case. For example, anything over two weeks should need the agreement of three judges and there should be a cap of a year. I would argue that in cases like this there should be a jury trial with evidence from both sides, the only trouble with that is it's virtually asking the guy to prove a negative (e.g. he doesn't have the money) but it's better than allowing one guys will to send him away for essentially ever. If there was a trial at least the guy would have some idea the maximum penelty and be able to formally present some evidence of how he lost the money - because surely there would have to be some sort of paper trail or other evidence of $2.5 being spent.

Re:Wow, life fail (4, Insightful)

Eskarel (565631) | about 5 years ago | (#28770665)

Sometimes shit like this is necessary. I can't say whether it was in this case, because I don't know the details, but sometimes it is necessary. Personally, from what I've seen in the vast majority of cases where some millionaire divorces his wife and then claims poor, he sure as hell does still have the money and knows damned sure where it is.

There can't be a cap on contempt of court, because if there was, there wouldn't be any court. If I can get sued, lose, and basically say "fuck you, I'm not turning over that money" and just wait three weeks in jail, then what's the motivation for ever paying that money. You'd just wait three weeks and walk away free and clear without having to pay a cent. That's what contempt of court means,

This isn't an issue of trial or no trial, there was a court case, the divorce was a court case, he had ample opportunity within that case to prove he didn't have 5 million dollars(presuming a 50/50 split), he obviously failed to do so. Then the court case was decided, all nice and legal like, and he seemingly cried poor and said he couldn't pay. He again couldn't prove that, so they tossed his ass in jail. Contempt isn't something magical with no trial, and it's not generally the stuff you see on tv where someone just acts a bit like an ass in a court. This is failure to comply with a court order contempt, which is breaking the law. There doesn't need to be a trial on the contempt charge because quite obviously he is in contempt, he's been ordered by a court to do something, and he hasn't done it. It's a bit like being found guilty of murder and then saying, well I don't feel like going to prison. Only difference is they can drag your ass down to jail whereas they can't get back the money you hid offshore, so they do what they can to try and make you do what you should.

Realistically the only reason this old geezer got freed was because he was 74 and the judge reckoned if he'd put up with 14 years he'd put up with another 20 and they got sick of feeding him, not because he was innocent or anything, he's still presumably failing to comply with a legal court order and is so still guilty of contempt of court(since he won this great game of chicken, he presumably has even more contempt for the court.

FFS people, I know slashdot is largely male and largely single and full of contempt and bitterness for women and marriage, but whether or not you feel that a wife getting a portion of the families assets is right or wrong, if you let people refuse to follow the orders of the court you may as well scrap the whole system.

Re:Wow, life fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770941)

Yes well if you allow unjust punishments that far exceed the crime you might as well scrap the whole thing too. The guy spend 14 fucking years in jail for not turning over money they cannot even prove he has.

Re:Wow, life fail (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 5 years ago | (#28770749)

This shouldn't be a hard matter. The wife can get a civil judgement based upon a preponderance of the evidence (it is more likely that he has $2.5M than not).

Then she can seek to enforce it, and ask him to tesify about the location of the money.

He can say that it doesn't exist or refuse to testify. So, then he can be charged with interference with collection of a lawful debt or perjury or whatever the crime is.

Then a jury needs to decide if there is evidence beyond reasonable doubt that he lied. He does not need to prove a negative - the state needs to prove that he lied, or witheld information about money that actually exists.

I'm all for punishing what is currently called contempt, but it needs to be a criminal charge and handled like any other criminal charge. If a reporter refuses to divulge his sources we can make that a crime, and punish him accordingly. However, it is wrong to turn that into a life sentence.

Profit - Free food/housing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770383)

You can "prepay" with a huge retainer your lawyers. Good way to 'hide' money.

Let's see -- 14 years in prison, x 3 meals a day, plus housing. $2.5 million in renewing CD's x 14 years = PROFIT.

And at 73 years old, He can now file for SSI and collect max benefits.

Hmm also at 73 the memory's not so good and I don't remember where the bank is... or I hope the bank hasn't turned the money over to the State of PA after 14 years as 'unclaimed accounts'.

Re:Profit - Free food/housing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770659)

Two words: Traveler's checks.

I worked with a guy who hid his money exactly that way during a divorce. They're tagged in your name, but they don't show up against your SSAN. You just need a secure lock box somewhere, and you don't collect interest. Afterward, you just spend them or redeposit them over a period of time.

Other methods are available [amazon.com]

He's just a stubborn liar (5, Interesting)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 5 years ago | (#28770389)

I saw this story on TV a few years ago.

This guy is a real tool. He was a multi-millionaire ultra-tightwad. He made his wife do all the landscaping on their mansion. She left him when he started rationing her toilet paper usage.

Then when she sued for divorce he hid all his money in some offshore company and pretended it was lost in a "bad investment". It was a blatant lie. This guy deserves to rot in prison until he decides to come clean. He held the keys to his release the entire 14 years. He was just a stubborn liar.

Re:He's just a stubborn liar (1)

greenreaper (205818) | about 5 years ago | (#28770451)

Just goes to show: you can lead a man to the door, but you can't make him use your keys and walk through it.

Re:He's just a stubborn liar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28770545)

Still I think 14 years in prison without a trial is a scary thing in any legal system.

Re:He's just a stubborn liar (4, Insightful)

Lord Kano (13027) | about 5 years ago | (#28770585)

Yes, he was a real asshole. The problem I have with this is that the legal system is supposed to be about what you can prove, not what you "know". You, the judge and I all know that this asshole isn't really broke. But if the judge and his ex-wife's lawyers can't prove that he has the money, then it's not right to hold him in a cell for so long.

LK

Re:He's just a stubborn liar (4, Insightful)

Roogna (9643) | about 5 years ago | (#28770809)

Actually it was a complete waste to ever stick him in prison. As others have said, let him loose, tax the hell out of him, garnish his wages, and make him pay what he owed. But sitting in prison has simply cost the tax payers money, prevented him from paying his owed debt by working, and potentially collecting the money he "hid". The judge was a fool in this case and accomplished nothing.

In fact this is a good example of why it's stupid to ever stick someone in prison because they owe money to someone else. It's far better to keep them out of prison, make sure they're working, and then collect the money owed. In fact, what are the odds that instead, they could have let him go, watched his bank transactions for a bit, then frozen his accounts and paid his debts? If he really did still have access to the money.

Re:He's just a stubborn liar (1)

BOFslime (178524) | about 5 years ago | (#28770825)

Maybe, or MAYBE he really didn't have the money, so he couldn't really afford the toilet paper!
Its expensive to keep that baller image.

Re:He's just a stubborn liar (4, Insightful)

mdarksbane (587589) | about 5 years ago | (#28770955)

Which means that he should have been tried in a court of law with a jury, and the prosecution should have had to prove that he did have he money.

Just because we think someone is an asshole should not mean we get to imprison them.

Re:He's just a stubborn liar (1)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | about 5 years ago | (#28770977)

and we all know the TV doesn't lie, especially when their biggest source was most likely the ex-wife. Then again, maybe she was doing landscaping and having her toilet paper rationed because he lost all of his money in a bad investment.

Re:He's just a stubborn liar (1)

avandesande (143899) | about 5 years ago | (#28771001)

Is it a crime to be an ass?
Divorce awards are the problem, not tightwads.

Re:He's just a stubborn liar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28771015)

Can you link to evidence of these claims?

Abuse of power (2, Interesting)

kheldan (1460303) | about 5 years ago | (#28770521)

This judge should be removed from the bench, and perhaps prosecuted for doing this to this man. 14 years! WTF?

I hate Idle (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | about 5 years ago | (#28770685)

But I like the new index. I managed to banish idle stories from the classic index, how do I banish them from the new index? I don't care how newsworthy some random editor thinks they are. I do not want to ever see them.

More reason to never get married! (2, Insightful)

orsty3001 (1377575) | about 5 years ago | (#28770763)

I'll just keep reading sits like www.nomarraige.com and girllookslikeabitch.com. No seriously, before someone jumps down my throat for saying that. I think if I was this guy, I would have worked out some kind of deal with my ex-wife before I spent what could be the majority of my golden years in jail. I never understood why people want so much stuff from their ex, most of the time requiring that they have to stay in contact with them. I would understand if children were involved, but I've never wanted to see her again after it's over. Too much else to do in life.

Like the songs says... (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about 5 years ago | (#28770891)

That's what ya get folks

For Makin Whoopee

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