FULL TEXT: White Plains, N. Y. – An alimony suit which the husband apparently faces life imprisonment unless the courts find some way to give him relief from contempt judgments was studied Saturday by Justice George H. Taylor, jr.
Mrs. Clara L. Pettet, the wife, has adopted a policy designed to keep her husband, John D. Pettet, in jail. When Pettet was $4,500 in arrears with his alimony Mrs. Pettit began to apply for her husband’s commitment for contempt of court, not for non payment of the total sum, but for amounts ranging from $200 to $600. If Pettet was able to pay on any particular occasion his wife immediately served another order.
~ New Order Always Ready ~
Four times Pettit was able to pay, but on the fifth he failed and was put in jail. That was Aug. 7. Oct. 10 he married to raise the sum called for and released. As Pettet walked from the jail his wife’s six order was served and he was forced to return to his cell.
A few days ago Mrs. Pettet obtained her seventh order for commitment on default of $525. her fear now is that Pettet might pay up on a legal holiday, be released and then leave the state before she could get another commitment order.
The wife’s attitude was described by Frances Fallon, her attorney, in the words “She feels that jail is the place for him.”
~ Life Term Possible ~
Justice Taylor, commenting on the situation, said:
“I have been convinced for several weeks that Mrs. Pettet’s purpose is to keep her husband in jail. It appears that the imprisonment of Pettet will be terminated only by his death unless the courts find some way to give him relief. And life imprisonment was not and is not the intent of the law.”
Pettet has a radio supply store in Mount Vernon. His wife obtained a separation in May, 1931. alimony was fixed at $75 a week at that time. Later it was reduced to $35.
The legal point before Justice Taylor now is Mrs. Pettit’s motion restrained the sheriff, in whose custody her husband is held as a civil prisoner, from accepting payment of any alimony sum on a holiday.
[“Back on Alimony; Faces Life in Cell – New Contempt Order Is Served When He Pays,” syndicated (UP), The Milwaukee Journal (Wi.), Dec. 24, 1932, p. 1]
Articles on the Pettet case yet to be added :
[“Life Term Held Too Severe in Alimony Case – Court Cool to Westchester Woman Seeking to Keep Husband in Jail,” New York Tribune (N.Y.), Dec, 24, 1932, p. 12]
[“Court Balks Pettet Plan To Pay Back Alimony – Wife Gets Order Barring Liquidation on Holiday,” New York Tribune (N.Y.), Dec. 28, 1932, p. 8]
[“Alimony Prisoner Falls $40 Short of Freedom – Mount Vernon Man Gets Three Days More to Raise $200.” New York Tribune (N.Y.), Jan. 24, 1933, p. 8]
[“Prisoner Freed For 2 Months to Raise Alimony – Business Ruined, $18,000 in Debt, Mount Vernon Man Faces Task Hopefully,” New York Tribune (N.Y.), Feb. 1, 1933, p. 3]
[“Wins Freedom With $35 – White Plains Contractor, Jailed 6 Months, Pays Alimony,” New York Tribune (N.Y.), Mar. 14, 1933, p. 11]
[“Kept out of Jail by Wife Who Used to Keep Him In – Ex-Member of Alimony Club Saved by Change of Heart,” New York Tribune (N.Y.), Mar. 7, 1934, p. 4]
For more revelations of this suppressed history, see The Alimony Racket: Checklist of Posts