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September 10, 2009

Crooked state juve judges indicted now on federal racketeering charges

This new piece from the Legal Intelligencer, which is headlined "Pa. Judges in Corruption Scandal Indicted for Racketeering," provides the latest news on the remarkable case involving two allegedly crooked state juve judges:

A federal grand jury has handed down a 48-count indictment against two former Luzerne County, Pa., judges, alleging the men engaged in racketeering and related charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced Wednesday.

The indictment, a copy of which was not available at press time Wednesday, comes about 5 1/2 weeks after a federal judge rejected the conditional plea agreements of Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and nearly two weeks after the men withdrew their conditional guilty pleas in the matter.

The indictment charges Conahan and Ciavarella with fraud, money laundering, extortion, bribery and federal tax violations while alleging they received "millions of dollars in illegal payments," according to Dennis C. Pfannenschmidt, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Each charge is related to the judges' ties to two juvenile detention facilities: PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care.

The indictment also seeks forfeiture of more than $2.8 million -- an amount the government alleges were proceeds from the judges' criminal activity. That amount is slightly higher than the $2.6 million the judges originally admitted to accepting in their conditional plea agreements....

The indictment is the latest twist in a story that has seen several since late summer. Conahan and Ciavarella made a joint filing Aug. 20, petitioning U.S. District Judge Edwin M. Kosik to reinstate their agreed-upon sentence of 87 months in prison because neither could be found at fault for his post-plea hearing actions. Kosik rejected that Aug. 24. That same day, the former judges withdrew their guilty pleas and formally entered pleas of not guilty to the charges.

Kosik threw out the plea agreements July 31, citing, in part, Conahan and Ciavarella's conduct following the announcement they had agreed to plead guilty to federal fraud charges and their refusal to accept responsibility for the crimes they had committed. Ciavarella's public comments were self-serving, he said, and Conahan was being obstructionist....

While the government's press release made no mention of any charges beyond those related to the juvenile detention center, several sources said they expected the government to come back at some point with a superseding indictment seeking additional charges against Conahan and Ciavarella.

While the federal government's case against the former judges centers on their roles in taking money from attorney Robert Powell, the owner, and Robert Mericle, the builder, of a juvenile detention facility and the judges' alleged abuse of the rights of juveniles sentenced to the facility, sources close to the investigation and inside Luzerne County say the scam some in the media have labeled "kids for cash" was just the tip of the iceberg and only the most blatant example of the corruption allegedly overseen by the two judges.

September 10, 2009 at 09:02 AM | Permalink


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Looks like the USA decided to avoid the lynching party that would have resulted had these two been let off after their plea was rejected.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Sep 10, 2009 11:45:31 AM

To hell with a trial, they should hang them now !!!

Posted by: The Scranton Guardian | Sep 10, 2009 2:06:43 PM

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