For the past year-and-a-half, Hartford criminal lawyer M. Donald Cardwell looked like a man headed for prison. The question wasn’t so much whether he’d serve, but how long.

Only divine intervention, it seemed, could save him from his own guilty pleas under the powerful, federal money-laundering law. But a very down-to-earth miracle appeared at Cardwell’s Jan. 10 sentencing hearing in the form of U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson.

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