H. Beatty Chadwick has been in jail in suburban Philadelphia since 1995. His 14 years behind bars are apparently a record for a sentence related to a contempt of court charge in a civil case. The particulars of his protracted and bitter divorce prompted dozens of appeals to county, state, and federal courts. On two occasions, it was reviewed by the United States Supreme Court.
Chadwick, formerly a corporate attorney and now in his 70s, was accused of hiding the whereabouts of $2.5 million from his ex-wife during divorce proceedings. Chadwick contended that he lost the money in poor investments. By 2006, the hidden assets was estimated to be worth $8 million.
He was jailed in April, 1995. While Chadwick’s attorneys have repeatedly petitioned for his freedom, his release was finally approved by Delaware County Judge Joseph Cronin, who ruled that Chadwick’s continued imprisonment had lost its coercive effect and would not persuade him to turn over the missing money.
When ordering Chadwick’s release, Cronin said that he concurred with previous court rulings that Chadwick "had the ability to comply with the court order…but that he had willfully refused to do so."
In Cronin’s opinion, Chadwick’s continued incarceration would only have been legal if it still seemed likely that he would eventually comply. As there seemed little chance of any change in Chadwick’s behavior, under the particular circumstances of the case, Cronin ruled the septuagenarian should be released from custody, though he remains in contempt of court.
"He’ll be home in time for the Phillies game," Chadwick’s attorney, Michael Malloy, told the Associated Press last Friday.
Chadwick and his wife Barbara Crowther married in 1977 and lived in a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia. She decided to file for divorce in 1992 and has since remarried. Now known as Bobbie Applegate, Chadwick’s ex-wife had no comment on his impending release.
Applegate’s attorney, Albert Momjian, said that the 14-year sentence was the longest such incarceration in U.S. history. While he understands and respects the judge’s decision, Momjian says he was nonetheless disappointed by the ruling.
"Here’s a guy who thumbed his nose at a court order for 14 years," Momjian said. "There should be some kind of sanction for that."
Momjian says that he is conferring with Mrs. Applegate regarding her options in pursuing the divorce settlement. He said he would also seek a court order requiring Chadwick to wear an electronic monitoring device and also barring him from obtaining a passport.
"My contention is that he’s going to take off very quickly," Momjian said. "He’s not going to stick around."
Chadwick struggled with non-Hodgkins lymphoma while behind bars. His own attorney, Michael Malloy, told Joann Loviglio of the Associated Press that his client was looking forward to a burger and a beer upon his release.