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Friday, February 27, 2009

Filing in Court Scandal Claims Judge Met with Mob Boss

Filing in Court Scandal Claims Judge Met with Mob Boss on Regular Basis
The Legal Intelligencer by Leo Strupczewski and Hank Grezlak - February 27, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - A former Luzerne County president judge used to hold bimonthly meetings with a reputed mob boss and a common friend -- also an admitted felon -- to discuss pending court cases, according to a supplement to a King's Bench petition scheduled to be filed with the state Supreme Court this morning. The owners of the Wilkes-Barre-based newspaper Citizens' Voice wrote to the court that a friend of William "Billy" D'Elia, Robert Kulick, has detailed his relationship with former Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Conahan and D'Elia.

According to the supplement, the three men once met in Conahan's chambers, when they were located in the main courthouse, to discuss a case in which D'Elia and Kulick "were both interested." That meeting happened prior to a hearing in that case, Kulick alleged. Kulick did say that the meetings usually occurred at a restaurant, which was not named, and began with a "general conversation," the supplement claims. They generally happened around breakfast. When talk would steer toward pending cases, D'Elia would leave the table so Kulick and Conahan could talk in private, the supplement claims. Kulick would leave the table when D'Elia and Conahan would talk in private. "If Kulick or someone he knew 'had an interest in a particular case pending before that court,' he would 'ask Judge Conahan to consider that the party [Kulick] supported got a 'fair shake,' or a 'second look,'" the supplement claims.  According to the supplement, Kulick was interviewed by the newspaper's attorneys on Tuesday.

The filing, first reported by the Citizens' Voice, confirms what The Legal first reported on line Feb. 20 and in print Monday -- that Kulick was the company's witness. It also supports a claim made by another source to The Legal weeks ago: that another person had told the source he had seen Conahan, Kulick and D'Elia meet at the courthouse to discuss business. The source portrayed the relator of that information as someone other than Kulick. The source who related the story had no knowledge of what the alleged meeting covered. The newspaper's supplement is its second filing to the state Supreme Court in which it asks the justices to vacate a $3.5 million defamation award issued against the newspaper and reopen discovery in the case.

In Joseph v. Scranton Times, Thomas Joseph, a Luzerne County businessman, argued that articles published by the Citizens' Voice during its coverage of a 2001 federal investigation that targeted D'Elia and his alleged business partners damaged his reputation and business. A source told the paper that federal officials were investigating Joseph to see whether he used his direct mail and advertising business to launder money for D'Elia and that his taxi and limousine service was used to traffic guns, drugs and prostitutes between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Lehigh Valley international airports and Atlantic City, N.J., New York City and Philadelphia. Joseph was never charged with any wrongdoing. Conahan handled the pretrial matters and, despite voiced concerns from the newspaper company, worked with William T. Sharkey, the former court administrator who has pleaded guilty to embezzling funds, to steer the case to Ciavarella for a 10-day non-jury trial, according to the petition. The supplement also includes a declaration by attorney J. Timothy Hinton, who searched about 4,600 of the county's disposed cases. Only Joseph v. Scranton Times had a note indicating Conahan and Sharkey were involved in assigning the case, according to the supplement.

"Kulick's Declaration and the Database Records are additional evidence that the corruption in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas infected Joseph v. Scranton Times and likely predetermined its outcome in favor of Thomas A Joseph," the supplement claims. "This additional evidence along with the evidence previously submitted by Petitioners provide ample basis for this Court to vacate the $3.5 million in Joseph's favor or, at a minimum, authorize a period of discovery to be followed by a hearing, if necessary, and briefing on Petitioner's motion to vacate." Conahan, along with fellow former Luzerne County president judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., have pleaded guilty to charges they accepted $2.6 million in kickbacks from the owner and builder of a juvenile detention center. The government alleges the judges steered juveniles to the facility. A former Luzerne County judge previously told The Legal that Conahan and Kulick were "friendly" and could be seen chatting in area restaurants and bars. Kulick's relationship with D'Elia was described in the same manner. Other sources said Kulick and D'Elia were cooperating with federal authorities in their ongoing corruption probe at the county courthouse. Both men have pleaded guilty in the last year to criminal charges -- Kulick to possession of a firearm by an admitted felon, D'Elia to money-laundering conspiracy and witness tampering charges in March 2008. President Judge Chester B. Muroski confirmed to The Legal earlier this week that he had been interviewed by the FBI about court administration issues. He allowed the investigators to photocopy documents concerning civil court matters without a subpoena, he said. Sources said other judges were interviewed, but none returned repeated calls for comment. Multiple sources have also relayed rumors to The Legal Intelligencer that other judges are being looked at by federal authorities. Those sources have not said whether the rumors include what the possible focus of the inquiry might be or the number of judges.

4 comments:

Bye Bye Bob said...

Speaking of mobsters, New York TV 1 Reports that the Manhattan DA Will Not Seek Re-Election.

"Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau will not seek re-election, after serving in the office for 35 years, sources told NY1 today."

This is great news for those who seek real justice in NYC.

friend of bob m said...

Morgenthau only served 35 years. Wow. Considering he's 138 years old, it thought he would have been in office longer. We'll miss you Mr. Morgenthau. Many Manhattan lawyers owe you, if you know what I mean. Thank god you believe different rules apply to the politically connected!!

a citizen said...

ALL LAWYERS ARE PIMPS SO WE DON'T HAVE TO KNOW ANYMORE. THIS GOES ON IN NEW YORK ALL THE TIME. HERE THEY HAVE BETTER PROTETION.

Anonymous said...

New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Pennsylvania..... where does the corruption end?

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