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Witness Released Early From Federal Civil Contempt

HZW Shareholder Attorney Tim Zerillo had a federal civil contempt case that we thought was noteworthy.

The federal government can hold you in custody on a civil contempt if you refuse to testify in front of the Grand Jury or in some other capacity.  When you are held on federal civil contempt any underlying sentence you are serving stops, and the time you spend in federal civil contempt does not count toward the service of the underlying sentence.

The federal government can have you held up to 18 months or the term of the grand jury (which is usually a year in Maine), whichever is shorter.  Of course, you can purge the contempt and stop the civil contempt against you by testifying.

Occasionally you find a strong-willed person who refuses to testify.  In this case, Attorney Zerillo's Client was serving a 130 month underlying sentence in federal prison.  He was subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury against other individuals.  He refused.  He was granted immunity.  He continued to refuse to testify.  As a result, he was held in contempt and jailed.  This means that the underlying sentence he was serving stopped running.

The purpose of civil contempt is to coerce an individual into testifying.  In other words, the purpose of giving the Judge the power to jail you for refusing to testify is so that you change your mind and testify.  

Since this Client was not going to change his mind, Attorney Zerillo brought a motion for release, arguing that the Client was uncoercable.  Attorney Zerillo was successful in his Motion for Early Release and the Court ordered the Client released on the civil contempt.

Our Client spent 8 months in jail on the civil contempt.  The Government opposed the Defense Motion for Release from non-Coercive Confinement.

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