« "Bronx Judge Finds Constitutional Defect in Sex Offender Law" | Main | Split Sixth Circuit panel reverses death sentence in long-running Ohio case »

August 11, 2011

"Kids for Cash" judge gets 28-year (way-above-guideline?) federal prison term

As detailed in this local Pennsylvania article, which is headlined "Luzerne ex-judge gets 28-year sentence," a judge at the center of a juve sentencing scandal will now likely spend the rest of his life in prison. Here are the basics:

A disgraced Luzerne County judge was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison Thursday for his conviction on charges of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments in connection with the operation of the counties' juvenile center.  The ex-judge, Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr., 61, was given the harsh sentence after he told the judge that he apologized for unethical behavior but had never taken "cash for kids."

He was found guilty in February of twelve counts of racketeering, conspiracy, fraud and filing false tax returns.  The jury acquitted him on 27 other counts of bribery and extortion, as he pointed out to the judge before he was sentenced.

Ciavarella, for years the head of juvenile court in the county, was charged with the former president judge there in a 2.8 million dollar scheme to enrich themselves through their control of juvenile justice in Luzerne County.

The other ex-judge, Michael T. Conahan, 59, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing, as are other key conspirators in the plot, including the builder and an owner of a for-profit juvenile detention center that was at the heart of the corruption....

Juvenile justice advocates, in criticism later affirmed by the State Supreme Court, said Ciavarella ran a kangaroo court for teens and children, shipping them to the facility with no regard for fairness.  Prosecutor Gordon Zubrod told the sentencing judge, Edwin Kosik, that Ciavarella had sold kids wholesale and deserved to be sentenced "for the rest of his natural life."

Based on prior reports about the calculated guideline range in this imposed prison term appears to be way above the applicable guideline range.  It wll be interesting to see if an appeal of the sentencing to the Third Circuit is on the horizon.

August 11, 2011 at 11:17 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e20153909c209a970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Kids for Cash" judge gets 28-year (way-above-guideline?) federal prison term:

Comments

Shame they couldn't execute him. The man ruined more lives than any dozen murderers.

Posted by: azazel | Aug 11, 2011 12:22:24 PM

Departures are reserved for atypical cases. I don't know how anyone could deny that this is an atypical case.

If you want to use your official position to line your pockets, you just assumed the risk. Blago and George Ryan have absolutely nothing on this guy.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 11, 2011 12:55:33 PM

Somewhere, I read that a cynic could be forgiven for observing that judges were the ones who created the rule of judicial immunity. These guys are the best walking-around reasons I can think of for an exception to that rule in cases like theirs.

Posted by: Greg Jones | Aug 11, 2011 1:38:13 PM

Crimes such as these go far beyond hurting the victims. They violate our sense of community. They undermine trust and respect for the rule of law. They turn us into a banana republic where people cynically come to expect corruption and self-dealing by public officials. Life in prison is what all of these men deserve, and I am happy and somewhat surprised to see that that is how they are actually being sentenced.

However, why can't we all see that, writ large, the scheme perpetrated by these men is no different from, for example, the "alliance" between the professional politicians of California and California's prison guards union? Or the "arrangements" between private prison corporations and the assemblies and judiciaries of the various states in which they operate? It's all about money: putting as man humans as possible in pens creates huge sums of money money for the prison guards and the private prison corporation, and part of that money is then kicked back to re-elect the legislators and judges.

"Shipping them to the facility with no regard for fairness." Isn't that about the same as the effect of California's three-strikes law? Isn't that the same as continuing to hold tens of thousands of people in prison nationwide for decades-old conduct (such as smoking marijuana) that is now deemed effectively lawful? Isn't that about the same as incarcerating five times more people as a percentage of the population than any other civilized nation, and more than any society in human history?

Let's face it: what happened in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, is exactly what is occurring in the United States as a whole. These particular perpetrators were just a little too obvious in how they went about it.

Posted by: Jason | Aug 11, 2011 2:16:05 PM

Jason --

"Let's face it: what happened in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, is exactly what is occurring in the United States as a whole."

Spot on! America stinks, you bet! People go to jail, not because they committed a crime or something, but because the guards' union rigs the verdict.

Gads, Jason, how do you stand living in such an evil nation?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 11, 2011 2:48:03 PM

Bill--

The irony for me is that we hear all of this verbal diarrhea about the prison system being chocked full of innocents wrongly convicted. Yet, when a person like this is convicted, there is never any consideration or discussion regarding whether this person could be a "victim" of the system as well.

It is almost like the system is always wrong with a certain class of criminal and suddenly becomes beyond reproach with another.

I wonder why that is?

I guess my question for Jason is, "How could you justify putting ANYONE in prison for 28 years that was convicted in a system that you find so thoroughly corrupt?"

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 11, 2011 4:05:22 PM

TarlQtr --

My guess is you'll be waiting a long time for an answer. Maybe Jason will prove me wrong. I guess we'll know soon enough.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 11, 2011 4:22:08 PM

Here's my two cents,
The actions of the judges in this case is horrible and deserves a harsh punishment. However, I am tired of punishment that costs the taxpayers even more than the crimes.
I would like to see those who are convicted repaying society in a tangible (financial) way or at least in a way that doesn't cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of their incarceration. Judge Ciavarella is educated and no doubt could contribute to society in a meaningful way over the next 28 years.
How is that accomplished? I'm not sure.

Posted by: J | Aug 11, 2011 7:38:45 PM

May he live just long enough to serve every day of those 28 years.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Aug 11, 2011 8:02:58 PM

MikeInCt,

I'd prefer that he come up just a bit short. Have him look forward to getting out and then keel over with a week or so left.

As for Jason's comments, the difference is that in CA the voters, through their elected representitives, have chosen massive incarceration as their preferred public policy. These judges (and others) in PA short circuited that process.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Aug 11, 2011 8:09:40 PM

The irony that you point out is exactly the point. I am completely surprised that this respectable-looking white judge with glasses was stiffly sentenced. The sentencing issue here is the judge's victimization of many hundreds of children. A more aggressive prosecutor could have devised a way to charge him with a felony count for every one of those children, many of whom may be scarred for life by the experience. What's also at issue is his horrific abuse of a position of public trust.

There is tons of literature on the difference in kind between a crime that victimizes a single victim in, say, a strong-arm robbery versus a crime like this one that tears at the fabric of our institutions and social order. An easy way to understand this distinction is to spend some time in a third-world country where there is no rule of law and bribery and corruption are expected. That was the morass into which this judge was pulling us as a society.

As for the straw man arguments, well, they are straw man arguments. I am not saying the prison guards unions and prison corporations are rigging cases. They have no need to do that. All they need to do is increase, on average, the total number of people behind bars. That's all they care about (other than their contracts). The results speak for themselves. We are incarcerating more of our citizens as a percentage of our population than we ever have, and more than any society in human history.

What is your explanation for why this dramatic change in incarceration rates occurred over the last thirty or so years? It didn't occur in other countries. There was no increase in crime. Meanwhile there have been relentless well-documented focused, concerted and highly strategic and thought-out legislative and political efforts nation-wide by the private prison industry and the prison guards unions to increase the number of people behind bars. It's a matter of record. These guys literally write the new laws, the new sentencing guidelines, the three-strikes laws, new immigration policies requiring incarceration, etc. Given how knowledgeable you two seem about this subject in general, I am surprised you aren't more familiar with this.

For example, the prison guards union put the three-strikes law on the ballot in California. They wrote it. They gathered the votes to get it on the ballot. They spent millions to get it passed. Multiply that law by a thousand and you have some concept of the scale of what is occurring nationwide. These guys have large staffs of lawyers and lobbyists in most every state looking for any possible opportunity to introduce a new law, guideline, commission, direction, program that will result in more people behind bars for a longer period of time.

When it comes to sentencing, the disturbing and distorting influence of this cash-for-inmates phenomenon, which this judge so richly personifies, is the elephant in the room. That doesn't mean that every inmate should be freed. Instead, it means that on average every inmate in America should probably have their sentences reduced by about a quarter in the interest of justice. And if that were to occur, I would have no problem seeing Ciavarella get the same deal.

Posted by: Jason | Aug 11, 2011 8:57:40 PM

Jason --

"What is your explanation for why this dramatic change in incarceration rates occurred over the last thirty or so years?"

That the electorate got sick and tired of the shocking increase in violent and every other kind of crime that occurred in the sixties and seventies and decided to do something about it.

Starting in the early to mid-eighties, it did. It went with more sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums. It built more prisons and put more criminals in them.

Since that time, crime in this country has decreased by more than 40%, to levels not seen in more than half a century. If you regard that as a bad thing, feel free to tell us. I imagine the thousands and thousands of people who did NOT become crime victims would voice a different opinion -- one that has zip to do with guards' unions.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 11, 2011 11:27:47 PM

Bill, Taris?:

"That the electorate got sick and tired of the shocking increase in violent and every other kind of crime that occurred in the sixties and seventies and decided to do something about it.

Starting in the early to mid-eighties, it did. It went with more sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums. It built more prisons and put more criminals in them.

Since that time, crime in this country has decreased by more than 40%, to levels not seen in more than half a century. If you regard that as a bad thing, feel free to tell us. I imagine the thousands and thousands of people who did NOT become crime victims would voice a different opinion -- one that has zip to do with guards' unions."

Your feeble responses are truly incredibly stupid. You Apologists and Mental Midgets!!!.

America is Great because if we don't like you, we can do anything we want (lie, cheat and steal) and still be able to put you away, (the blue brotherhood).

I would ask, How do you sleep at night? I know the answer!

That is why we are broke!

We need to meet face to face for a true debate. You are harming this country beyond repair, if it is not already too late!

Posted by: albeed | Aug 12, 2011 12:21:53 AM

The problem with this case is that judicial immunity insulates him from being charged with his real crime: enslavement. (The kickbacks, in comparison, are mere peccadilloes.) I'm pretty much for lex talionis here: have him serve as much time in jail as he wrongly dished out to the children.

Posted by: Ebenezer Scrooge | Aug 12, 2011 10:28:33 AM

albeed,

Whether we can afford it or not is entirely separate from whether it was enacted because the voters wanted it.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Aug 12, 2011 10:30:06 AM

Secretive Corporate-Legislative Group ALEC Holds Annual Meeting to Rewrite State Laws | Truthout
http://www.truth-out.org/secretive-corporate-legislative-group-alec-holds-annual-meeting-rewrite-state-laws/1312911539

Privatized Prisons and Prison Labor IS Slavery - YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xt6gPZO8XRw&feature=related

Posted by: truthseeker | Aug 12, 2011 11:21:50 AM

Soronel --

What you say is right on point, but there's no use trying to engage albeed. The guy might have a good heart (or might not), but his elevator is not stopping on all floors.

Notice that he snarls at my post, and at me, but offers not a single fact to contradict my explanation of why the country has had a big increase in incarceration rates.

This is not because he's a bad person. It's because there ARE no such facts. But one way or the other, the guy is just incoherent.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 12, 2011 1:02:55 PM

Bill, if you are going to respond to albeed, respond directly to albeed rather than hide behind a response to Soronel. We all realize that you think you are "punishing" those that you ignore. How childish.

Posted by: Thomas | Aug 12, 2011 2:47:54 PM

"Bill, if you are going to respond to albeed, respond directly to albeed rather than hide behind a response to Soronel."

Are you really enough of a fool to think that you direct how and to whom I respond? Wanna enforce your "order?" Feel free.

"We all realize that you think you are 'punishing' those that you ignore. How childish."

You "realize" many things that aren't so. But for however that may be, childishness is to be preferred to cowardice. I offered to engage you in a videotaped, face-to-face debate on the subject of appeal waivers, a topic about which you repeatedly experessed very strong views, among which was that thee waiver was unethical. You objected that the debate I proposed was to be held on my "turf" (Georgetown Law Center). I offered to hear you out on any different location and terms you might suggest.

At which point you went silent.

The offer is still open. Are you still cowering?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 12, 2011 6:27:54 PM

"The offer is still open. Are you still cowering?"

Nope, I am ignoring you

Posted by: Thomas | Aug 12, 2011 10:16:36 PM

Cowering by any other name....

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 12, 2011 10:54:08 PM

Bill:

Our country is a country based on the principle of law.

What a crock of kacka.

Law is not enough without honesty from All government parties and elimination of the current game playing.

Maybe (and I am glad) that THIS judge may be getting his just desserts. What about Judge Camp?

Selective honesty or dishonesty?

I do not have an ax to grind with you. I admire you for your consistency. But I don't believe you are considering all the questions as to why we are heading in the wrong direction.

Please, no straw-men. That is my expertise.

And YES, some people deserve the death-penalty!

Posted by: albeed | Aug 13, 2011 11:38:51 PM

Not being done. Discounts for benefits of crime.

If it can be shown that referral to a facility prevented crimes by the juveniles, then a deduction should be allowed in the guideline calculation. For example, half the kids were innocent people. Half the kids were busy criminals. By their referral, he prevented hundreds of crime a year by each. The damage prevented far exceeded the damage done to the innocent kids. Specifically what damage was done? Removal from family, any abuse in placement, any damage to education, reputation and career. Benefits to be included? Lower health costs, higher real estate prices, lower security cost, improved education for others by the removal of the criminal.

Some utilitarian calculation needs to be done. The final result may be positive. If positive, the judge should get a money reward.

Not me, but a very clever lawyer gives the example of a felony murder. A bystander is killed in my bank robbery. It turns out the victim was a terrorist on the verge of detonating a nuclear device in a pre-school. I get a reward for my felony murder, in grateful appreciation by the community. I deserve to be convicted for felony murder. However, the positive calculation and reward have to be made by the executive branch during sentencing.

If you are going to calculate aggravation, you must calculate not just mitigation, but also enrichment of the community. If you fail to do so, the community has been unjustly enriched by the crime and the procedural due process rights of the defendant have been violated, the one to a fair hearing. Just unfair. Kill a bully destroying a community and not get mitigation or even a reward.

That the defense likely did not even think of this self-evident idea is further evidence that law school turns people with very high IQ's into dumbasses (a lawyer term of art, not an epithet, meaning, a smart student is indoctrinated into believing idiotic, psychotic, Medieval supernatural core concepts, still running the law and putting it in total failure).

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 14, 2011 11:32:14 AM

It is wonderful. Please keep on writing excellent posts. To find out more please go to cheap football shirts , La ga fotball shrts and Ramos shirt

Posted by: soccer jersey | Aug 19, 2011 12:53:13 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB