By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
A woman locked in a seven-year custody battle with a former same-sex partner was released from jail Friday after her current partner paid more than $1,500 in legal bills.
Jeannette Rowan had been in jail since Jan. 8 on a six-month sentence for contempt of court.
A Dec. 31, 20012, court order required that she turn over her 12-year-old daughter to the temporary physical custody of her former partner, Lisa Lewis of Sharon.
Rowan, who had been living in Oxford, Ohio, did not comply but was arrested Dec. 20 in Lakewood, Ohio, and authorities released the girl to Lewis.
The second contempt issue was her failing to pay Whalen Law Firm $1,603 for services provided to Lewis.
Rowan’s partner, Susan Sherwin, arranged to pay Whalen during a hearing on Friday.
“I believe the court can no longer hold her,” Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher J. St. John said, noting the purge criteria of the contempt orders had been met.
St. John said Rowan deserves to serve all six months of his contempt sentence for “defiance of court orders,” but noted that his ordering her to jail served a different purpose than when a criminal defendant is sentenced to incarceration.
“I cannot use it to punish, only to coerce compliance,” he said.
St. John turned away arguments from Lewis’ attorney, Melissa Merchant-Calvert, that Rowan should stay in jail for the full six months because of her public criticism of St. John, failure to comply with other orders and other reasons.
The judge said he was only dealing with Rowan’s petition for release from jail.
The girl remains with Ms. Lewis.
St. John has ordered that Rowan be allowed to visit her daughter under the supervision of Mercer County Children and Youth Services. Rowan has also been allowed to see the girl while in jail.