FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): New York, Dec. 20. – Mrs. Politano must show cause why her husband ‘‘must be a prisoner for life” in a Brooklyn jail just because he is unable to pay $12 a week alimony.
Supreme Court Justice Edward Riegelman listened yesterday to the story of Umberto Politano, the imprisoned husband, and then issued the order.
Politano told the court: “I have been in this jail for two and a half years and each day my sentence becomes longer. I want a chance to get out so I can get a job and obey the court order. Must I be a prisoner for life?”
Politano said he came to this country in 1921 and had $3,000 in the bank when he married. Trouble started, he said, when the wife’s family came to live with them. The $3,000 soon was eaten up and the wife got a separation decree and the alimony order in 1929. Since then Politano has been in jail, unable to pay.
“I’ve been in this jail longer than anyone else,” he told justice Riegelman, “I have learned to read and write English while here.”
[“Wife must show Cause – Hubby Tired of Staying in Jail for Failure to Pay Alimony.” Syndicated (AP), Dec. 20, 1932, p. 1]
FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): New York, March 2 – Umberto Politano, a bricklayer, war veteran and, by right of jail seniority, president of the Brooklyn Alimony Club, was freed from confinement with the tart observation of Supreme Court Justice Bonynge, “this carries the supposed rights of women to absurd, not to say unconstitutional lengths.”
For two years and seven months. Politano has been inmate of Brooklyn Alimony Jail, failing to pay $12 a week to his wife, Mary Politano, who sued him for separation in October, 1927 – a suit that never has been tried.
Repeated contempt orders have renewed his term and Justice Bonynge’s decision was rendered in the face of a recommendation by a special master which the court set aside.
~ Wife in Contempt. ~
“Even a lowly alimony prisoner has constitutional rights,” said Justice Bonynge, and he quoted the constitutional guarantee: “Cruel and unusual punishment shall not be inflicted.”
Criminal contempt, Justice Bonynge pointed out is more grave than civil contempt, and yet, even in flagrant cases punishment is limited by statute to a jail sentence of 30 days and a fine of $250.
“However, let a waspish woman pluck the sleeves of the judicial gown, or nudge the elbow concealed therein, and this temperate restraint immediately cast aside and the delinquent spouse faces the possibility of unending imprisonment through successive adjudication of contempt.
~ Husbands Have Been Patient. ~
“Through the ages man has yielded authority in the home to the opposite sex and accepted the consequences with humility. With a bland of humor, resignation and affection, the relationship has come to be known as petticoat government.
“While the institution has functioned reasonably well, there are those who doubt the expediency of its extension into a form of petticoat justice.”
Concluding his opinion, Justice Bonynge wrote:
“If an evil-doer invades my court room and reviles me or my ancestors or my country, witch indecent or blasphemous utterances, a penalty of 30 days in the straight-jacket of my righteous wrath is incurred. Can I truthfully say that through poverty or misfortune this defendant, who shouldered arms when the need was great, who omits to pay alimony to a vindictive and relentless wife has offered my court an affront more than thirtyfold greater?”
“The answer being obvious, the defendant is ordered released from imprisonment forthwith.”
[“Even Patient Husbands Have Rights Says Court – In Jail 31 Months for Not Paying Alimony, Jurist Denounces Waspish Women,” The Reading Eagle (Pa.), Mar. 2, 1933, p. 7]