Divorce-case Inmate Says He's Victim Beatty Chadwick Is In Jail Until He Hands Over $2.5 Million.

Posted: May 12, 1996

A year ago he was a high-powered corporate attorney with a penchant for Harley Davidsons, beach vacations in Hawaii and French cuisine.

Today H. Beatty Chadwick lives in a five-by-nine cell, sleeps on a steel bunk bed, and eats off a plastic tray.

He is an inmate at Delaware County Prison - serving, officials say, the longest term ever in Pennsylvania for violation of the divorce code. He has been there for 13 months - earning him a footnote in legal history and a chapter in local legend.

``This is not a pleasant place,'' said the rail-thin, Main Line aristocrat as he pressed his fingers anxiously against the wood-paneled table before him. ``I miss being free.''

Officials say he could be free tomorrow. All he has to do, they say, is cough up the $2.5 million they contend he has been hiding from his estranged wife, Barbara Jean ``Bobbie'' Chadwick, since she left him in 1992, after 15 years of marriage. Theirs is the Main Line's most high-profile, hotly contested divorce in years.

Beatty Chadwick - who boasts roots to the Founding Fathers and an ancestor who signed the Declaration of Independence - says he could not and still cannot comply with the order. The millions his wife is seeking, he says, were lost in 1993 after he made a foolish investment with a little-known real estate firm in Gibraltar called Maison Blanche.

Sitting on a stainless steel stool inside the Concord jail, a brown smock falling from his slight frame, Chadwick, 59, says he is the victim.

``The money isn't there,'' he said, staring down at the dusty veal-skinned shoes he walked in with. ``The court is essentially keeping me here on a whim.''

Here, Chadwick says, is a place so ``spartan'' it often annoys him. His life is cluttered with chain-smokers, radio-blasters, and overcooked vegetables. Sounding like a traveler who has simply found himself in a bad hotel, he says prison is very lax about those kinds of things.

His estranged wife, Bobbie Chadwick, 41, and her attorney, Kevin C. McCullough, contend that Chadwick is very lax about the truth. For the last two years, they say, they have been tracking his money from one bank account to another across Latin America and Europe. They estimate that they already have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the pursuit. They say they have found portions of the fortune in Panama, Luxembourg and Gibraltar - even obtaining an order two years ago from a Supreme Court judge in Gibraltar that the money be produced. Now they think most of the money is in Panama.

``We just keep losing the trail,'' said Bobbie Chadwick as she stared aimlessly out a courtroom window during a recent divorce-related hearing in Delaware County. She wore a paisley dress she says she made herself.

While Beatty Chadwick sits in prison critiquing the food, she says, she struggles to make ends meet - preparing hoagies and hamburgers for strangers as a short-order cook in a deli. She says she is afraid that one day her husband - whom she has grown to fear - will be released from jail.

``I'm worn out,'' she said. ``He'll do anything to get his own way.''

* It was not supposed to end this way for the Chadwicks, a couple whose beginning was markedly innocent. Beatty and Bobbie locked eyes - and soon hearts - 19 years ago at a Presbyterian outing in Harrisburg, where they had chaperoned 100 students during a weeklong government conference.

She was a 21-year-old Christian education director. He was a 39-year-old corporate lawyer - on the verge of a divorce. She said she was intrigued by his aloofness and he, by her youthful, ``flashy'' side.

``I was just a girl when he first got hold of me,'' said Bobbie Chadwick.

They married shortly after, sharing a $300,000 pre-Revolutionary farmhouse in Bryn Mawr and later a $600,000 condominium in Radnor. They lived the kind of charmed Main Line life many dream of.

There, where Georgian mansions and French chateaux crown spiraling roads and country clubs dot the landscape, he swam and hiked, read voluminous political biographies, and immersed himself in local Republican politics.

She painted and made her own clothes - even showing her work at local galleries and gaining the respect of the area art community.

Together, they took long, luxurious trips abroad - and sometimes motorcycle tours in the mountains. Bobbie Chadwick says they also spent a great deal of time entertaining.

But mostly, she says, he worked - first for the shipping firm I.U. International - then as an attorney for Medex, a pharmaceutical firm in Ardmore. He said he was earning money for the woman he remembers as ``creative.''

That was before things fell apart. Bobbie Chadwick left, filed for divorce, and told the world she had been unhappy for years. Her husband, she now says, had been selfish and control-oriented. He had always insisted on getting his own way.

Meanwhile, Beatty Chadwick had become a virtual outlaw, playing a six-month-long cat-and-mouse game with police, and eventually landing in a prison cell.

* Chadwick was leaning back in a Philadelphia dentist's chair - waiting for a routine teeth-cleaning - shortly after 7 a.m. April 5, 1995, when the game ended. He was snagged by deputies from the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office. They were acting on a tip that he would be there.

Months earlier, then-Delaware County Judge Joseph Labrum had ordered Chadwick to place the money in question in an escrow account until his divorce settlement was completed. Chadwick did not. Labrum locked him up, set a $3 million bail, and ordered him to surrender his passport.

Now, while the search for his money continues, Chadwick spends his days reading and writing in a small cell in a restrictive area of the county prison.

He says most mornings he wakes before light, eats breakfast at 4:30 a.m. and then settles on his bunk bed where he devours books that have been sent to him from area bookstores. So far, he has plowed through 40 of them, including Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger and the new political novel Primary Colors, which he says he found amusing. He also writes - taking copious notes about the system he is now scrutinizing up close. He eats lunch at 10:30 a.m. Dinner is at 4:30 p.m. He goes to sleep around 10 p.m.

He complains that the prison meals include few salads and less fruit.

As for the law library, it doesn't have a card catalogue. For a corporate lawyer, he says, that's, well, a little hard to take.

Before, he lifted weights at a nearby gym at least three times a week. Now, he frets, his only aerobic workout is a short walk in a courtyard the size of his Radnor living room.

For two hours a day, Chadwick is allowed to shower, telephone family and friends, and walk. He often watches The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. Once he helped a fellow prisoner prepare a writ of habeas corpus.

``There are a lot of people here who just shouldn't be here,'' he said.

On his own behalf, Chadwick has filed at least five habeas corpus petitions and has appealed at least 10 orders in the divorce proceedings. Several of the petitions and appeals have been consolidated by his attorney, Samuel C. Stretton and are awaiting a hearing Tuesday before a three-judge panel in state Superior Court.

Chadwick also is appealing a March 6 criminal conviction in Philadelphia related to his run-in with the sheriff's department. He was slapped with 12 to 24 months in jail for resisting arrest and assaulting and endangering the two deputies who nabbed him.

Stretton contends that Chadwick is innocent but says he should be freed even if he isn't.

``Assume he does have the money,'' Stretton said. ``Can the court refuse to let him out?''

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