BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A federal appeals court ordered the release Wednesday of a real estate mogul who was jailed last week in Montana after being found in contempt of court over his sale of a Mexico resort.
The ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals comes after onetime billionaire and Yellowstone Club founder Tim Blixseth, 64, was jailed Thursday for not giving U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon a full accounting of a 2011 hotel property sale for $13.8 million.
Blixseth's attorneys argued that the jailing was unconstitutional because Haddon had not given enough details about what he wanted. Attorney Philip Stillman said Blixseth was "elated" with the ruling and hoped to be home in Washington state by Wednesday afternoon.
"This is truly a great Christmas for Mr. Blixseth," Stillman said.
A two-judge panel of the 9th Circuit said that Haddon's incarceration order will be put on hold for 30 days while Haddon gives more specific instructions to Blixseth on how he can comply with his earlier order.
Blixseth sold the property in defiance of a court order. Haddon first demanded answers on where the money went in February.
Creditors are trying to collect on $241 million in judgments against Blixseth stemming from the Yellowstone Club's bankruptcy. The Montana resort he started in the 1990s is now under new ownership.
Blixseth claims he no longer has the money he received from the sale of the resort known as Tamarindo, which included hotels and condominiums in the state of Jalisco. He originally paid $40 million for the property.
"They're never going to get anything out of Tim because there is nothing — that's why they're going after his wife," Stillman said of creditors.
Creditors are asking a federal judge to hold Jessica Blixseth in contempt of court. Creditors' trustee Brian Glasser said Tuesday that she unlawfully transferred more than $1 million from the sale of a 156-foot luxury yacht to her mother and other entities.
Some of the money was moved after a temporary restraining order was imposed barring such transfers, Glasser said. Representatives for Glasser didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Stillman said Wednesday that the lawsuit against Blixseth's wife was "a transparent attempt to choke off Tim's ability to defend himself" as his creditors hound him for the $241 million.
A temporary restraining order against Jessica Blixseth did not go into effect until after she had transferred the money, the attorney said.
"She could do anything she wanted with her own money," Stillman said.