PA Ex-Juvenile Judge Sentenced to 28 Years

Remember the corrupt juvenile judge scheme in Pennsylvania the prosecutors dubbed "Cash for Kids?" The scheme involved the judges taking money from private detention centers in exchange for sentencing kids to the facilities.

Defiant former Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr., convicted of racketeering, has been sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Ciavarella, known for his harsh and autocratic courtroom demeanor, filled 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.

....In the wake of the scandal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed 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.


Another former judge, Michael Conahan, still awaits sentencing. Originally, they had agreed to plead in exchange for 87 months, but ended up going to trial. From today's report:

The jury returned a mixed verdict following a February trial, convicting him 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 the builder.

You can read some of the letters submitted for his sentencing here.
< Thursday Open Thread | Pelosi Names House Dems for Budget Deficit Committee >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Finding it difficult... (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by kdog on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 11:33:46 AM EST
    to stick to my m.o. and complain about the length of the sentence here...deplorable case of extreme child abuse on a grand scale, coupled with gross abuse of power for profit.  

    Does it get more heinous?

    Good. (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by jbindc on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 12:29:11 PM EST

    For the record (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by NYShooter on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 04:06:20 AM EST
    Its cases like this one when we should be reminded that we are a "Nation of Laws, not Men."

    When a person, after receiving a fair and impartial trial, is convicted and sentenced to time in prison, the punishment is incarceration, the loss of his/her freedom. Any civilized society should be satisfied with that.

    To tacitly approve of extra-legal punishment such as turning a blind eye to beatings, rape, etc. should be condemned by all who believe in justice.

    What punishment should be meted out to a convicted person is  a topic to be considered by our legislators, judges, and juries.....not spectators. And its exactly when this type of horrific, unspeakable crime is the subject that we should be reminded of that.

    As long as it is not codified... (none / 0) (#31)
    by kdog on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 10:23:27 AM EST
    into law, I got no problem with some street justice...sometimes its the best kind.

    But of course, those who deliver it must be willing to face the music for it, especially if it is delivered unjustly.  And double of course, prison officials can not and should not turn a blind eye to prisoner on prisoner crime, prisoners themselves are another matter.


    Street justice is an oxymoron (none / 0) (#33)
    by nyjets on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 11:33:50 AM EST
    Street Justice is never the best kind. When it happens, it suggests that the rule of law is broken.
    And if prisoners turn a blind eye on prisonor on prisoner crime, prisoners should not be surpirzed if the guards can not stop it.

    Really? (none / 0) (#34)
    by kdog on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 11:44:58 AM EST
    When that junky f8ck robbed me, going to his place and smashing some sh*t with a bat felt like justice to me, and no cops to make the situation worse.

    That is not justice (none / 0) (#35)
    by nyjets on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 11:51:34 AM EST
    Suppose he was innocent. Suppose you accidently hurt someone else. Taking the law into your own hands is never justice.

    And bringing the cops in may not had made it worse. There are some very good cops out there.


    I was satisfied... (none / 0) (#37)
    by kdog on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 12:01:24 PM EST
    and if I had any doubt I wouldn't have done it. But yes potentially punishing the innocent is the flaw in all systems of justice, even street.

    In the street it is worse (none / 0) (#39)
    by nyjets on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 12:08:31 PM EST
    The potential to hurt the innocent during an act of 'street justice' is much more likly.
    Furthermore, I am quite sure there have been plenty of cases where an innocent person was hurt during an act of 'street justice' and the person who commited the act was sure that person was guilty.
     And most people who try to carry out 'street justice' even if they are not sure of the persons guilt.

    You should never risk (none / 0) (#36)
    by CoralGables on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 11:54:50 AM EST
    ruining a perfectly good bat that way. That's a sacrilege in the church of baseball.

    I had no idea you knew who robbed you, (none / 0) (#38)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 12:03:11 PM EST
    nor that you evened the score.

    This was not... (none / 0) (#40)
    by kdog on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 12:44:24 PM EST
    the time my place got broken into...never found those culprits.

    This was more recent...my roomate had people over, one of which he shoulda known better than to allow through the front door. Try as I might I couldn't let it go.

    Just glad I found my head and left before I did something really stupid...blind rage, unusual emotion for me.


    I missed this story, what happened? (none / 0) (#41)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 01:23:01 PM EST
    Unless you don't want to talk about it.

    The ex-judge was found guilty of... (4.00 / 1) (#25)
    by desertswine on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 07:57:35 PM EST
    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."

    So what happened to the "payer" of the bribes?

    Robert Powell, owner of the private prison, (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Peter G on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 08:24:05 PM EST
    pled guilty to conspiracy and testified against Ciavarella, as did Robert Mericle, the developer, who paid a $997,000 "finder's fee" for the contract, which Powell and Ciavarella apparently shared.  The jury acquitted Ciavarella of those counts (extortion and bribery) on which Powell was the principal witness, but convicted on a major Mericle count.  Powell and Mericle have not yet been sentenced.

    Thank you. (none / 0) (#29)
    by desertswine on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 09:49:51 PM EST
    401K? Pension Fund? (none / 0) (#3)
    by BarnBabe on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 12:38:10 PM EST
    Why would this all happen? Did they need to supplement their incomes so badly? We they looking for a extra retirement fund? And this is my NE PA area. All of a sudden there is so much corruption coming to light not only in this judicial system, but other areas of public service in the community. These are adult, mature, pillars of the community. So much for that theory. Once again, it is all about power and greed. These men are getting what they deserved for destroying so many young lives. I never in my life thought I would see it here and with so many. If it can happen here, then it is probably happening in many places in the country. Beware. BTW, there is a State and a Federal Prison in Waymart next to Scranton. They won't have to travel far.

    There are related civil cases (none / 0) (#12)
    by scribe on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 03:22:58 PM EST
    either pending or recently resolved which involved this former judge and another former judge.

    An example was a suit, brought to protect "trade secrets", over the county's lease of the detention center;  that case was sealed by the other judge involved in this scheme.  There was a related libel suit, too.

    Then there was a multimillion-dollar libel verdict against a local newspaper, the Citizen's Voice.  In short, the paper printed a series of articles about a couple people and companies which were raided by the feds, the raids being based on allegations of money laundering by those people through those companies.  One of the people involved was a reputed local mob boss, with whom the other judge, Conahan,  regularly had breakfast in a diner.  The case was steered to Ciavarella, who entered a verdict after a bench trial against the newspaper and in favor of the alleed mobster et als.  That decision  was reversed by the PA Supreme Court, about the time the kids for cash scandal was breaking and the case was retried this past spring.

    This ex-judge was also the subject of raging parents, including one who confronted him on the courthouse steps after his conviction last winter, blaming him and his habit of sending juveniles to prison for her son's suicide.  This article is a good synopsis.

    Note also that the privatized prison cost the county several times as much as had the county-run one.

    In short, these two judges turned the justice system in Luzerne County into a cesspit that resembled a season of the Sopranos more than it did a judicial system, and ran it for their own profit.  I'm not one to come down on the side of the prosecution, but these two can rot in hell, and should.


    Can I be honest: (none / 0) (#5)
    by andgarden on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 01:47:58 PM EST
    My initial reaction was that the sentence seemed too short. Baseless imprisonment is one of the most horrific things I can imagine.

    I wonder if the victims will be able to pursue a tort claim?

    They are suing him. (none / 0) (#14)
    by scribe on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 03:25:52 PM EST
    Then again, he had to deal with raging parents, including a mother whose son he incarcerated and who later killed himself over it.

    I wouldn't bet on him finishing his sentence, either.  I'd suspect inmates and guards give corrupt judges the same treatment or as child molesters and crooked cops. Or worse.


    One can only (none / 0) (#16)
    by Amiss on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 04:55:07 PM EST

    No matter how you feel about the case (none / 0) (#18)
    by Peter G on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 05:09:10 PM EST
    -- and I totally support the view that this offense is about The Worst one can imagine -- your comment wishing extrajudicial harm on any sentenced prisoner, Amiss, is totally out of line and indefensible.  I could not let it pass without comment.

    You make an important point (none / 0) (#21)
    by NYShooter on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 05:36:07 PM EST
    and it is destroying our ability to govern ourselves.

    Its one thing for lay-people sitting around, discussing issues, and venting their frustration with comments like, "If that was me, I would....(enter any sadistic punishment you can think of)"

    The problem is that politicians, with their fingers up in the air, and their ears to the ground, pick up on these normal, throw-away comments and capitalize on them. They either use them to fire up the crowd in their own elections, or, much worse, they make actual legislation using the public's frustration as the basis.

    "Lock'm up and throw away the key!"   And we now have more murders, and more people rotting in prison than any country on earth.


    My hope is that (none / 0) (#22)
    by Amiss on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 05:45:56 PM EST
    a crooked Judge who should be held to a higher standard, IMHO, of course, that sends a 10 year old to prison is no better than a child molester, for it is obvious that the Judge has enough sense to know that the 10 year old will be molested, so he is enabling the molesters. Purely disgusting to me and I hope he gets the treatment he deserves for the greed that obviously felt was more important to him than this child's whole future.

    I concur with you (none / 0) (#28)
    by scribe on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 09:26:46 PM EST
    I stated the kind of thing that, too often, happens in our prisons. That doesn't mean it should happen.

    Anyone who wants to help these children (none / 0) (#20)
    by Peter G on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 05:23:30 PM EST
    and their families in their action against Luzerne County and the corrupt judges should support the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, which first detected and blew the whistle on this scandal. (They have matching fund campaign going this month, in fact, so it's a particularly good time to donate.) I give credit to my old friends Bob Schwartz, the JLC's Executive Director, and Marsha Levick, JLC's chief counsel, who co-founded the JLC in 1976 on a shoestring and have been plugging away at this work ever since, building the JLC into one of the country's top juvenile justice reform groups.

    death penalty (none / 0) (#6)
    by bocajeff on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 01:50:06 PM EST
    Not kidding.

    Crimes against children for no other reason than profit? See you in the next life.

    crimes against children (none / 0) (#8)
    by jondee on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 02:54:39 PM EST
    for no reason other than profit. Sounds like Grover Norquist and every arms dealer in the last hundred years.

    The judge probably told himself he was being a "job creator" -- breaking a few (little) eggs to make an entrepreneurial omelet, as it were.


    I agree (none / 0) (#10)
    by loveed on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 03:01:31 PM EST
     I do not believe in the death penalty, except for crimes against children.
     There is no doubt that evil lurks among us.It preys on our children.
     This is beyond greed.  

    Fear not... (none / 0) (#11)
    by kdog on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 03:10:22 PM EST
    better to let his fellow inmates take care of it than to further sully our system of justice with a death penalty.

    Those who commit crimes against children are at the very bottom of the prison caste system, factor in he's a former judge who filled cages for kickbacks...he's due to receive the hardest of hard time.


    the greed and the evil (none / 0) (#13)
    by jondee on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 03:23:06 PM EST
    both prey on the weak: attacking the place of least resistence for the quickest return.

    And this judge is just another turn of the screw in the "tough on crime" culture that's built and sustained many a career in the last couple of decades.  


    And the Gall... (none / 0) (#15)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 04:08:31 PM EST
    ... of the this Law & Order type jack-A to ask for leniency after spending his life giving it to no one, is truly mind boggling.

    Why give him the easy out, death, when we can stick him 'down with the sodomites' for 30 or 40 years of the suffering he condemned to so many others who didn't deserve it.

    From Shawshank:

    Nothing stops. Nothing... or you will do the hardest time there is. No more protection from the guards. I'll pull you out of that one-bunk Hilton and cast you down with the sodomites. You'll think you've been f**ked by a train!

    Again, even as a figure of speech, (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Peter G on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 05:14:46 PM EST
    to wish extrajudicial harm on a helpless person (a prisoner), Scott, particularly in the form of rape, is totally out of line, below any standard of human decency, and utterly unacceptable.  You might want to spend some time with Just Detention International (formerly Stop Prison Rape) to learn a thing or two.

    Unacceptable (none / 0) (#24)
    by Amiss on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 05:56:21 PM EST
    "Again, even as a figure of speech, to wish extrajudicial harm on a helpless person (a prisoner), Scott, particularly in the form of rape, is totally out of line, below any standard of human decency, and utterly unacceptable."

    What is unacceptable to me is the helpless children he knowingly sentenced these children to.  Which was (he knew) a life of rape and molestation, and to quote you "below any standard of human decency, and utterly unacceptable."


    It is morally depraved to suggest (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by Peter G on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 08:29:43 PM EST
    as frankly you apparently do, Amiss, that because the crime is heinous it is acceptable to impose inhumane conditions of punishment.  Rape, threats of rape, and intentional exposure to rape are forms of cruel and inhuman treatment, akin to torture.  Reciting the severity of the crime is no answer to that simple fact.  

    Peter G (none / 0) (#32)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 10:24:08 AM EST
    I can see where you read rape into it, but that isn't what I meant, nor is it what I wrote.  Toss him in at the bottom, with no special treatment.  Nothing more, nothing less.

    I don't wish him harm and I detest prison violence because that violence never stops at the gate.  And although the judge will not be getting out, the perpetrators of any violence against him probably will.  Pretty sure dieing in prison is punishment enough, especially with stretched budgets.

    I just happen to like the word and thought I just reference it's source in a prison context.  When posted, F'ed by a train in mind was living in hell at the bottom, not actually being F'ed by a train.


    No "read[ing] ... into it" involved (none / 0) (#42)
    by Peter G on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 02:05:00 PM EST
    in interpreting the expression "I'll ... cast you down with the sodomites. You'll think you've been f**ked by a train!"  Coupled with "sodomites," the "train" reference is not ambiguous or figurative.  I'm glad to hear that you don't wish this sentenced prisoner harm.

    One point (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by nyjets on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 05:47:31 PM EST
    Just being a law and order type person is not wrong. I consider myself a law and order person who beleived criminals should be punished, including this indiviudal.
    It is the abuse of power that this individual displayed is what makes it truly sickening and I hope he serves every year of his sentence.

    Best example I can think of at the moment (none / 0) (#17)
    by Amiss on Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 04:59:36 PM EST
    "both prey on the weak: attacking the place of least resistence for the quickest return."

    is our government from the WH on down the hill. That describes them all perfectly to me. Yet we all participate in re-electing them. I can only hope and pray they are not re-elected this go-round.