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Ira Hatch finds Christ; client funds still lost
BY MICHELLE GENZ - STAFF WRITER (Week of October 15, 2009)

As disbarred attorney Ira Hatch wraps up his second year in the county jail, awaiting trial under $3 million bond, his most frequent visitor is a man who hardly knew him, beachside resident and former church elder Glenn Bradwell.

Now, as an apparent result of those visits, Hatch has come to know not only Bradwell, but Jesus Christ.

“I know people are skeptical of jailhouse conversion,” says Bradwell’s wife, Genia. “But he has accepted Christ through the conviction of the Holy Spirit.”

Hatch stands accused of 57 criminal counts involving the mishandling of $4.5 million dollars of clients’ funds through his now-defunct law practice, Hatch and Doty, and business, Coastal Escrow Services. Authorities claim Hatch himself spent $1.3 million of those funds.

Along with finding Christ, Hatch has lost 60 pounds, through no particular regimen other than prison food and pacing, Bradwell says.

Though Hatch’s wife, Margaret, has been sued civilly by Norris and Company Real Estate as a co-owner of Coastal Escrow, she shows up nowhere on jail reports of visitors. But she, in fact, calls daily, Bradwell says. Hatch’s two children, St. Edward’s graduates now at colleges out-of-state, call once a week. It is Hatch who has asked them not to visit, Bradwell says, in an effort to spare his family the pain of seeing him in his current circumstances.

Bradwell began his biweekly visits after seeing a post-arrest photo of Hatch in an orange prison jumpsuit.

“We don’t read the local paper, and we didn’t even know what had happened, ” said Genia Bradwell, who says her husband had met Hatch briefly a few years ago when Hatch helped out with a bit of legal advice regarding the startup of their church, MorningStar Reformed Presbyterian, off Oslo Road.

“We were at Cravings one Saturday morning and we saw the paper with Mr. Hatch in an orange jumpsuit. And Glenn just said, ‘I have to minister to him.’ ”

“I was told in a still, small voice,” says Bradwell. “When you seek Christ, you become sensitive to his voice. I didn’t have a choice. It is a spiritual burden.”

“I was a sinner reaching out to another sinner about the message of Christ,” he continues. “From that standpoint we’ve had good visits, but they are really limited to talking about how his faith is growing. We talk about very, very little else.”

Bradwell says Hatch’s emotional strength “totally varies, absolutely,” and that some days he is strong, others not.

The visits are limited by the jail to half an hour, and are conducted via phone through a window.

Bradwell says Hatch spends a lot of time reading spiritual books his family sends him.

Hatch spends his days and nights in a large group cell with 50 or so fellow inmates jailed in connection with non-violent crimes. In addition to reading, he can watch TV and has access to a basketball court but no other workout facilities, according to Sheriff’s department spokesman Jeff Luther.

Margaret Hatch is now a regular attendee at Bradwell’s church, which meets in a house and fitness club at Timber Ridge in south Vero Beach.

“I was a sinner reaching out to another sinner about the message of Christ. From that standpoint we’ve had good visits, but they are really limited to talking about how his faith is growing.We talk about very,very little else.”

-- Glenn Bradwell, Spiritual counselor to Ira Hatch

Bradwell was a founding elder of MorningStar. He also attended a course by the late Fort Lauderdale televangelist Dr. James Kennedy, called Evangelism Explosion. He says he works as an outside marketing consultant.

His wife, Genia, is a retired teacher of mentally and physically handicapped children.

The couple relocated to Vero Beach from Columbia, South Carolina, where Bradwell had ministered to elderly men. Hatch is the first inmate he has counseled.

Hatch was declared indigent last year. His criminal attorney, Greg Eisenmenger, is working pro bono. His trial is expected to be scheduled at a court conference set for Nov. 29.