NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) _ A 77-year-old woman jailed for refusing to say where her daughter and granddaughters are was released today after a judge decided prison would not coerce her into talking.
A frustrated Superior Court Judge Mark Pfeiffer said he knew last week when he sent Mary Pigeon to prison that if she did not reveal her daughter’s whereabouts within the first few days of her imprisonment, she would not.
She has steadfastly claimed that she does not know where her daughter, who disappeared after a dispute with her husband five years ago, is.
It has been a week since she was sent to the women’s minimum security section of the Adult Correctional Institutions and Mrs. Pigeon has offered no information about her daughter, Elaine Yates, and granddaughters, Kimberly, 8, and Kelly, 5.
Mrs. Pigeon returned to court this morning on an application by the Corrections Department to place her in a home confinement program rather than to keep her in prison.
But Pfeiffer dropped the prison order - leaving the question of home confinement moot. ″I can’t imagine what would be more coercive than what the court has done in the past few days,″ he told Mrs. Pigeon as she stood impassively.
Pfeiffer did not revoke his earlier order requiring Mrs. Pigeon to provide information about her daughter.
Mrs. Pigeon’s son-in-law, Russell M. Yates Jr., believes Mrs. Pigeon knows where Mrs. Yates took the children when she disappeared from their Warwick home.
Mrs. Yates left in 1985 after she found her husband with another woman aboard the family’s boat. Yates later acknowledged hitting his wife and cutting her forehead with a ring, and also aknowledges that he had an affair with another woman.
He won custody of the children when Mrs. Yates failed to show up to contest it. He sued Mrs. Pigeon after the custody hearing in an effort to find his daughters.
After the judge concluded Mrs. Pigeon knew where her daughter is, he ordered her to pay a $23,000 fine. She has yet to pay it, but she did comply with a later order to do 150 hours of community service at a children’s aid society.
The judge’s desicion last week to send Mrs. Pigeon to prison provoked widespread criticism from Gov. Edward D. DiPrete, leaders of women’s groups and others.
Neil Philbin, Yates’ attorney, said he disagreed with the judge’s ruling today reversing that decission, but respected it. ″I’m confident Judge Pfeiffer ruled as his conscience guided him,″ Philbin said.