BEAUMONT -- Odis Briggs hugged his attorneys after a Beaumont federal magistrate ordered his release Thursday on $50,000 bond from Liberty County Jail, where he had been held for four years and eight months for contempt of court.
"It's a joy to be released," said Briggs, 63, after making bail. "I'm going first to the altar and pray and then visit my wife's grave."
State District Judge Zeke Zbranek had refused to release Briggs to visit his ailing wife or attend her funeral after she died March 29, 1999.
Zbranek said Briggs "held the keys" to his freedom -- and state appellate courts agreed -- if he would turn over financial records to show what happened to the $120,000 he admits swindling from 18 black families in Chambers County.
Advice to those imprisoned for civil contempt:
They aren't supposed to keep you if you establish that you can't be coerced. So prove it.
Write daily letters to the judge holding you in prison expressing in the strongest possible language that you will never in a million years do what he says.
Include lengthy discussions of whatever personal, political, or religious philosophy motivates you to establish the depth of your convictions. On every letter note how many days you've been imprisoned and how many letters and petitions you've sent.
Attach copies of every one of those letters to Habeus Corpus petitions mailed daily to various state and federal courts around the country.
You've got nothing better to do, have you?