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Wilhelm Reich Trial: 1956

Discovers "orgone", Invents "accumulator", Builds "cloud-buster", Ignores Injunction, Suggestions For Further Reading

Defendants: Wilhelm Reich, Michael Silvert, the Wilhelm Reich Foundation
Crime Charged: Criminal contempt of court
Chief Defense Lawyers: Wilhelm Reich and Michael Silvert, representing themselves; William Moise, representing the Wilhelm Reich Foundation; on appeal, Charles Haydon
Chief Prosecutors: Joseph L. Maguire, Peter Mills
Judge: George C. Sweeney
Place: Portland, Maine
Date of Trial: May 3-7, 1956
Verdict: Guilty
Sentences: Reich: two years imprisonment; Silvert: one year and one day imprisonment; Foundation: $10,000 fine

SIGNIFICANCE: The judge in this case told the jury, "It's probably the first time in the annals of jurisprudence that the government has presented a case only to have the defendants come in and say they did it." The fact is that, while the Food & Drug Administration succeeded in proving that its injunction had been violated, it has never brought further legal action against the defendants' Public Orgonomic Research Exchange (PORE), which continues to function.

Born on a farm in Austria in 1897, Wilhelm Reich early developed an interest in natural science. Following service in World War I (1914-1918), he entered medical school and soon caught the attention of the well-known psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud, who welcomed him into his Viennese Psychoanalytic Society and, in 1922, made Reich his clinical assistant.

While administering clinics on sexual hygiene, Reich became sensitive to the problems of working-class people. His interest in the social causes of neurosis led him to activity in the Socialist Party. Over a decade, he published papers that compared Marxian and Freudian concepts, married a patient and produced two daughters, and became vice director of Freud's clinic.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962