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Friday, August 12, 2011

Judge Gets 28 Years in "Kids-For-Cash" Case

Pa. judge gets 28 years in 'kids for cash' case
The Associated Press by Michael Rubinkam  -  August 11, 2011

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — A northeastern Pennsylvania judge was ordered Thursday to spend nearly three decades in prison for his role in a massive bribery scandal that prompted the state's high court to toss thousands of juvenile convictions and left lasting scars on the children who appeared in his courtroom and their hapless families.  Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison for taking a $1 million bribe from the builder of a pair of juvenile detention centers in a case that became known as "kids for cash."  Ciavarella, who denied locking up youths for money, had no reaction as the sentence was announced. From the gallery, which was crowded with family members of some of the children he incarcerated, someone shouted "Woo hoo!"  In the wake of the scandal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.  Ciavarella, 61, was tried and convicted of racketeering earlier this year. His attorneys had asked for a "reasonable" sentence in court papers, saying, in effect, that he'd already been punished enough.  "The media attention to this matter has exceeded coverage given to many and almost all capital murders, and despite protestation, he will forever be unjustly branded as the 'Kids for Cash' judge," their sentencing memo said.  Al Flora, Ciavarella's lawyer, called the sentence harsher than expected. The ex-judge surrendered immediately but it was not immediately known where he would serve his time. He plans to appeal both his conviction and sentence.  Ciavarella, in a 15-minute speech before the sentence was handed down, apologized to his family, the Luzerne County bar and the community — and to those juveniles who appeared before him in his court. He called himself a hypocrite who failed to practice what he preached.  "I blame no one but myself for what happened," he said.  Then, in an extraordinary turnabout, Ciavarella attacked the government's case as well as the conclusions of the state Supreme Court and the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, a state panel that investigated the scandal. Both said Ciavarella engaged in wholesale rights violations over a period of many years. Ciavarella denied it.

"I did everything I was obligated to do protect these children's rights," he said.  He also criticized Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Zubrod for referring to the case as "kids for cash," saying it sank his reputation. (Zubrod said outside court that he doesn't remember ever calling it that.)  "He backdoored me, and I never saw it coming. Those three words made me the personification of evil," Ciavarella said. "They made me toxic and caused a public uproar the likes of which this community has never seen."  In court, Zubrod said Ciavarella had "verbally abused and cruelly mocked children he sent away after violating their rights." He called the ex-judge "vicious and mean-spirited" and asked U.S. District Judge Edwin M. Kosik to punish Ciavarella's "profound evil" with a life sentence.  "The criminal justice system (in Luzerne County) is ruined and will not recover in our lifetimes," Zubrod added.

Federal prosecutors accused Ciavarella and a second judge, Michael Conahan, of taking more than $2 million in bribes from Robert Mericle, the builder of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention centers, and of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from Robert Powell, the facilities' co-owner.  Ciavarella, known for his harsh and autocratic courtroom demeanor, pocketed the cash while filling the beds of the private lockups with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders convicted of petty theft and other minor crimes. Ciavarella often ordered youths he had found delinquent to be immediately shackled, handcuffed and taken away without giving them a chance to say goodbye to their families.  "Frankly, I don't think Ciavarella or Conahan themselves really personally cared where the juveniles went, as long as they could use their power to place the juveniles as leverage or control over Mericle and Powell," U.S. Attorney Peter Smith said Thursday.  Speaking of Ciavarella, Smith added: "There's no true remorse and there's a blind unwillingness to admit the overall seriousness of his conduct."  The jury returned a mixed verdict following a February trial, convicting Ciavarella of 12 counts, including racketeering and conspiracy, and acquitting him of 27 counts, including extortion. The guilty verdicts related to a payment of $997,600 from Mericle.  Conahan pleaded guilty last year and awaits sentencing.  Sandy Fonzo, whose son committed suicide last year at the age of 23 after bouncing in and out of Ciavarella's courtroom, said Thursday that justice was done.  "This judge was wrong, what he did to my son, what he did to all of our children, what he did to our families, and today proves that," said Fonzo, who dramatically confronted Ciavarella on the courthouse steps earlier this year.  Susan Mishanski also applauded the sentence. Ciavarella had ordered her son to spend three months in a wilderness camp for scuffling with another kid.  "They did not even tell him where they were taking him. It was like someone kidnapped my son," she said. "It was awful."  Ciavarella and Conahan initially pleaded guilty in February 2009 to honest services fraud and tax evasion in a deal that called for a sentence of more than seven years in prison. But their plea deals were rejected by Kosik, who ruled they had failed to accept responsibility for their actions.

FBI PRESS RELEASE:

Former Pennsylvania County President Judge and Juvenile Judge Mark Ciavarella Sentenced to 28 Years in Prison
U.S. Attorney’s Office  -  August 11, 2011  -  Middle District of Pennsylvania  - (717) 221-4482

SCRANTON, PA—Mark A. Ciavarella, former president judge of the Court of Common Pleas and former judge of the Juvenile Court for Luzerne County, was sentenced in federal court in Scranton, Penn., today by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Edwin M. Kosik II, announced Peter J. Smith, U.S. Attorney for Middle District of Pennsylvania. Senior Judge Kosik sentenced Ciavarella to 28 years in prison and ordered restitution be paid in the amount of $965,930 to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for his judicial salary and $207,861 in restitution related to the tax charges. Ciavarella and his co-defendant, Michael Conahan, who also served as president judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, were initially charged in January 2009 with honest services mail and wire fraud and tax fraud in connection with the use of privately owned juvenile detention facilities. The charges were the result of a federal investigation of alleged corruption in the Luzerne County court system. The inquiry began in 2007 and over the next four years expanded to include county government offices, state legislators, school districts, and contractors in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Both defendants agreed to plead guilty. In July 2009, Judge Kosik rejected the proposed plea agreements because the defendants did not appear to accept responsibility for their conduct.  In September 2009 and September 2010, a grand jury in Harrisburg, Penn., returned superseding indictments charging both defendants with racketeering, honest services mail fraud, money laundering, extortion, bribery, tax violations, and conspiracy. The government also sought the forfeiture of approximately $2.8 million in assets allegedly acquired by the defendants through racketeering and money laundering. In response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in United States v. Skilling, the 2010 indictment specifically charged that bribes and kickbacks were paid to the defendants.

After an 11-day trial in Scranton in February 2011, a jury found Ciavarella guilty on 12 of 39 counts: racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, four counts of honest services mail fraud, and four counts of filing false income tax returns. The jury also found that Ciavarella should forfeit $997,600, the sum he received from Robert Mericle, the developer who built the juvenile detention facilities.  Ciavarella testified at trial, claiming that the payments he received from Mericle were “finders fees” or “honest money” with no connection to Ciavarella’s actions as a judge, and denied that he received payment from Robert Powell, owner of the facilities.  The evidence established that Conahan closed the Luzerne County Juvenile Detention Facility when he was chief judge and helped arrange the financing for the private facilities; that Ciavarella, as juvenile court judge, sent juveniles to those facilities; that both men obstructed efforts to question the county’s use of the facilities and their financial relationships with Mericle and Powell; and both judges used bank accounts, straw parties and real estate vacation property to hide and launder payments received from Mericle and Powell. The evidence also showed that Ciavarella failed to report receipt of the funds on annual financial interest statements he was required to file as a judge and failed to report the income on his federal income tax returns. Mericle and Powell have pleaded guilty pursuant to plea agreements and are awaiting sentencing.  Conahan pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy in April 2010. He did not testify at trial and has not been sentenced.  The judicial scandal, described as the worst in Pennsylvania’s history, and the federal prosecutions have had major consequences: Ciavarella and Conahan resigned from the bench in 2009. Reform and housecleaning are underway in the Luzerne County court system. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was compelled to vacate thousands of juvenile convictions in Luzerne County as a result of Ciavarella’s conduct as a juvenile court judge. A State Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice was established to study what happened and to recommend changes in the state’s justice system aimed at safeguarding the constitutional rights of juveniles and improving the oversight and disciplinary process for judges in Pennsylvania. In June 2011, a committee of the American Bar Association reviewed and made recommendations to improve procedures in the state’s Judicial Conduct Board. A procedure was established in Luzerne County for compensation of victims of the activities of Ciavarella and Conahan.  Ciavarella voluntarily surrendered at the end of the sentencing hearing and was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals.  In the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the prosecution was conducted by a team consisting of Senor Litigation Counsel Gordon A.D. Zubrod, Assistant U.S. Attorneys William S. Houser, Michael A. Consiglio and Amy Phillips, and Criminal Division Chief Christian A. Fisanick.  The case was investigated by the agents of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations and the FBI’s Scranton office.

29 comments:

The Devil said...

Burning in hell for all eternity is too good for this scumbag judge Ciavarella!

Anonymous said...

One down and thousands to go..why does it have to be so bad, before this type of prosecution happens.
We must all band together in huge numbers and write and potest JUDICIAL terms and unaccountability...and that starts now.
Don't just write about your disgust here and shake you heads...act, write everywhere you can..twitter, facebook etc and discuss the horrific details of court crimes, with your friends and family..esp those with money.
This blog is almost 5 yrs old..and it has not scared anyone into action or investigation...just not enough reporting of cases existing right here in NY State and the criminal coverups of real honest and true insider evidence..so sad and so non-supportive of this cause!

One question of discovery asks.....name all the lawsuits or actions that have been filed and/or are pending against OCA in just the past 11 yrs...has OCA refusing to answer and scrambling to introduce their own new discovery...after submitting nothing in 6 plus years of litigation and depos,while employing tons of OCA lawyers, the entire NY AG'S office under 2 heads..one now Governor, and their multiple employees, when not playing on the computer.... and 8 days away from their "9th"...FINAL GRANTED ADJ for discovery to be answered from pltf, which was ASKED FOR SEVERAL MONTHS EARLIER.

Where were those NOW IMMEDIATE questions prior to those dirty 7 questions OCA does not want TO ANSWER or be entered into the court record?

Pressure and evidence about the corruption from this blog...could have certainly led all of us in the right direction and possibly with some success of correction.

Anonymous said...

this is the saddest thing to watch one of ourr "Judges" go down and know how many State Employees would not or could not say a word for fear of retailiation, the whole time knowing they were destroying these children, making them hate........

maybe now the families may heal!

thank you holder and friends


ps sometimes you can't call your rich friends, one corrupt network is trying to catch the other.....
then they just harm each other!
Violante stop crossing!

Anonymous said...

you can not blame everytHing on OCA, they are crossing and a lot of people are lying, some are committing illegal acts to protect the innocent, some are committing illegal acts to find the guilty, some are committing illegal acts because they are CREEPS AND SHOULD BE EXTERMINATED!

Anonymous said...

you can not blame everytHing on OCA, they are crossing and a lot of people are lying, some are committing illegal acts to protect the innocent, some are committing illegal acts to find the guilty, some are committing illegal acts because they are CREEPS AND SHOULD BE EXTERMINATED!

Anonymous said...

band together, where the hell were the state employees banding together on the QT on this issue a long time ago.........

why do we no longer protect each other, why do we HATE and set each other up?

Anonymous said...

what right direction, you can not call the sheriff's, the police or the FEDS or any of our other "agencies" they all protect each other and try to harm whomever they want.......you can never stop it before it gets bad!

how long did all this go on?
tell me the employees went home every day with joy, right!

Anonymous said...

what right direction, you can not call the sheriff's, the police or the FEDS or any of our other "agencies" they all protect each other and try to harm whomever they want.......you can never stop it before it gets bad!

how long did all this go on?
tell me the employees went home every day with joy, right!

Anonymous said...

by the way Messer's, you own friends got you arrested, that is what they do, they are liars, quit playing tit for tat to protect those liars!

Anonymous said...

I would only need 2 minutes with this speck of shit.

Anonymous said...

What about all the swine still on the bench in NY? All were and are protected and enabled by Cuomo, Spitzer and likely now Schneiderboy as Attorney Generals. NYC public radio under Scheiderboy's daddy can be trusted to continue its cover-up of judicial corruption.

JAIL4JUDGES said...

Put him in Devils Island (Ile du Diable) with no parole

Anonymous said...

STAAAAAAARRRRRT
SHOOOOOOOOOOOOTING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

When are the crooked federal judges at 500 Pearl Street going to join this lowlife?

Federal Judge Crotty is worst than this guy. He is an employee of the law firm Skadden Arps. You got a few million Crotty is your guy.

I have been following the Sergentakis lawsuit this Judge broke every law imaginable. Lock him up!

Anonymous said...

Ok Now go after Judge John K. McGuirk from the Goshen New York Supreme Court County of Orange another one running a kids-for-cash-pedophilia scheme. Of course with the help of Judge Francis Nicolai and other officers of the court with pedophilia preference.

shocked said...

OH my GOD. I had never heard about this. Selling kids?!?!?! Hang the bastards! Others knew about what was going on! why weren't they prosecuted?!?!?!

Anonymous said...

The 'Kid business' is a racket they run because there is federal money involved. Since the feds did such a good job in PA now they can come to NY and bag and tag the dirty judges here, but they know that don't they.

Anonymous said...

have you ever heard of such disgusting behavior, allowed to be run by our gov't, than harming children.......

lock all the bastards up with guards only on the outside walls and let the evil kill each other!

that would save us a lot of gov't money!

Anonymous said...

SAVE MONEY THRU SHOOTING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I HOPE this worthless piece of crap ROTS IN JAIL FOREVER...his soul is with the DEVIL!!!!

Anonymous said...

cut off his balls

Kris Sergentakis said...

A number of these "judges" are child molesters themselves. What do you expect with no oversight.

I see the FBI doesn't mention in the beginning they refused to investigate these two lowlife judges.

Ummmm

Anonymous said...

I had the FBI in my living room telling and showing them crimnal activity, as well as false documents served by OCA, only just a few yrs ago...and the male agent told the female agent to DROP the altered documents, stop the conversation of illegal activity, because he was not going to address any allegations against OCA...as he maintained he was ordered not to deal with judicial corruption!

Who AMERICA...... ordered the FBI not to address an insiders trove of corrupt judicial documents and why...As the FBI'S BEHAVIOR remains a serious violation of our CONSTITUTION and my rights as a citizen who must be protected by that constitution.

Butt....there was a small matter that the female Administrative Judge employed by OCA, had some closeness to the head of the local FBI. Which head has yet to be determined.

It appears that the American system of everything that investigates anyone in "power"...in itself suffers from greed, narcissim esp of the sexual kind, and multiple forms of blatant corruption...and therebye we have sustained fiascos that plague and represent us in Washinton DC, that we cannot seem to rid ourselves of through attempted elected replacements, without getting the same crap in the turnaround.

OCA is counting on and playing with all these agencies...so they may perpetuate thier money grabbing, syndicate operated system of 3rd world justice...and we are all accepting it because we cannot commit crimes to get our way out of it.

Anonymous said...

HENCE
SHOOTING IS NOT A CRIME
START
SHOOTING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

that is true the Admin and OCA have ties to the FEDs but how do you know exactly what their intentions are?
why do the intertwine like this to protect some and harm others

Anonymous said...

OCA and the FBI interwine when the judge becomes an embarrassment to OCA...like a very political judge who was removed upstate because he was flaunting his position in a town that did not have to deal with this arrogant judge, and when this judge again made headlines sexually assaulting his court clerk and court reporter....it boiled down to his very public removal.
But...OCA never forgot the woman who reported the sexual assaults over a 2 yr period..so they fired her when she protested their continued harassment and severe bias against her on the job...and then criminally settled the 1997 Federal Ct..... CASE WITHOUT HER PERMISSION against OCA...... that included a no retaliation clause.
The FBI has an entire file on this woman relative to this judge and his removal..her entire work and personal history, friends and even her OCA test scores, as well as her registered voting status...so you know if they could have found anything a tad bit suspect with her...this judge would be still around...but the woman would be OCA history.
OCA and the FBI are comprised of lots of lawyers believing they are smarter and slicker than most Americans..when really they never know who knows what about them...right FBI...you didn't know that informational file was leaked!

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Blog Archive

See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:


               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
         
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2