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Feds: Tape shows judges’ cover-up plan (Kids for Cash trial)
Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre PA) ^ | 2/11/2011 | Terrie Morgan-Besecker

Posted on 02/11/2011 5:50:13 AM PST by Born Conservative

SCRANTON – Mark Ciavarella approached the van parked along the roadway and tried to enter, first pulling the passenger-side door handle, then the rear.

It was July 30, 2008, and Ciavarella, then a Luzerne County judge, suspected he might be under surveillance.

He was right.

Inside the van sat James Glenn, an FBI agent, and several co-workers. The men had been recording a conversation attorney Robert Powell, a government witness, was having with Ciavarella and Michael Conahan.

Glenn saw Ciavarella approaching and hurriedly shut down the recording devices, fearful Ciavarella would hear the humming noise they made. The agents then sat silently, hoping Ciavarella would not detect them.

It worked.

Unsuccessful in his attempt to enter the van, Ciavarella drove away, leaving the agents with an incriminating tape in their possession.

Glenn recounted the story Thursday during his testimony in Ciavarella’s trial on corruption charges.

The tape, which was played in court, laid out the plan Ciavarella, Conahan and Powell were to put forth to defend themselves against a federal grand jury investigation into their dealings with the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care juvenile detention centers.

Ciavarella is facing a 39-count federal indictment that charges him with racketeering, bribery, extortion, money laundering, honest services fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion. Conahan pleaded guilty last year to one count of racketeering conspiracy.

Powell, the then co-owner of the centers, agreed to tape the conversation as part of his cooperation with the federal investigation of Conahan and Ciavarella’s acceptance of $2.8 million related to the centers. Powell also pleaded guilty in 2009 to charges related to the case.

The government contends $2.1 million of the money was a kickback paid to the ex-judges by Robert Mericle, the builder of the centers. Another $733,500 was extorted from Powell.

Powell was meeting with the judges under the premise of discussing his concerns that his partner in the detention centers, Gregory Zappala, was going to sue him. Zappala had become suspicious after hearing rumors of the grand jury investigation.

In the tape, all three men are heard discussing a plan to discredit Mericle, whom they knew had already testified before the grand jury, and former Luzerne County Prothonotary Jill Moran, who was also Powell’s law partner.

Moran had witnessed Powell stuffing cash into one of three FedEx boxes she had delivered from Powell to Conahan. The money, Powell has testified, had been extorted from him by Conahan and Ciavarella, who demanded he pay them part of the profits he was making from the centers.

As for Mericle, the men feared he had lied to the grand jury regarding the origination of the $2.1 million in finders fees he paid to the judges for referring him to Powell as the builder.

In the tape, Powell is heard describing Moran as the “weak link” because she is the only person, other than them, who knew about the cash.

Conahan is then heard devising a plan to discredit her. He tells the others he will deny she ever delivered any boxes to him.

“The problem Jill has is she never gave me anything. If anything was given to her, she has it,” Conahan says.

Conahan also leads a discussion with Powell (Ciavarella had left the room at that point) regarding how to explain away the money Powell paid them. They would stick to the story, he said, that the money was for Powell’s rental of a Florida condominium that was owned by the judges’ wives.

“Listen, you paid me rent for my condo. You didn’t pay me rent for my condo to shut the juvenile detention center down or fix cases,” Conahan says.

The tape also provides evidence in support of a key area of Ciavarella’s defense claim: Mericle approached Ciavarella about paying him the finders fee.

“When he said to me ‘I want to pay you a finders fee,’ I said ‘You’re kidding,’ ” Ciavarella says on the tape.

The tape also supports Ciavarella’s claim that he did not believe the fee to be illegal and offers a possible explanation as to why he funneled the money through Powell, which is the basis of part of the money laundering charges against him.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think a finders fee was illegal,” he says. “I didn’t give a (expletive) where it went because I did not take bad money.”

That’s an issue in the case because the prosecution must prove the money it alleges was laundered was illegally earned, Ciavarella’s attorneys have said. If it was legally earned, his passing of the fund through someone else would not be illegal.

Jurors were given a written transcript to follow along with the tape, but U.S. District Judge Edwin Kosik advised them they must decide the case based on their memory of what they heard in court.

Thursday’s witness list


Testimony from ex-Luzerne County Prothonotary Jill Moran continues at 8:30 a.m. today.

Attorney Robert Powell predictably dominated the witness stand during Mark Ciavarella’s trial Thursday, with Judge Edwin Kosik curbing the defense’s lines of questioning twice in cross examination, likely whittling Powell’s testimony time substantially and allowing prosecution to get through several other witnesses.

1. Attorney Robert Powell, former co-owner of PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care concluded testimony late in the morning, including commentary on a lengthy and often riveting playback of a conversation recorded when he wore a wire during a conversation with Ciavarella and Michael Conahan. When attorney Al Flora began reviewing Powell’s American Express bills in cross-examination, the judge questioned the relevance and the line of questions was dropped.

2. Patrick Owens, chief financial officer for three companies co-owned by Powell and Gregory Zappala: PA Child Care, Western PA Child Care and Mid Atlantic Youth Services. Luzerne County used all three, and Owens testified that from 2003 through 2007 the county paid the three a total of $30.3 million. Owens also said he kept tight control of the books and Powell could not have siphoned money without his knowledge, a statement Kosik used to in stopping cross examination about money Powell had taken from PA Child Care for other businesses.

3. FBI Agent James Glenn testified that he was stationed outside the building when Powell wore the wire, and that Ciavarella, who had suspected the conversation was bugged, approached Glen’s vehicle and attempted to get it.

4. Nicholas Callen, the tipstaff for Conahan when he was a judge, testified that he picked up packages from Powell and delivered them to Conahan without knowing the content, a practice he said was not uncommon among lawyers and judges.

5. Former Luzerne County Prothonotary Jill Moran, a partner in Powell’s law firm, began testimony about how she too had delivered packages from Powell to Conahan, though Kosik ended the day’s questioning before she was finished.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Extended News; US: Pennsylvania
KEYWORDS: ciavarella; kidsforcash; luzernecounty; robertpowell

1 posted on 02/11/2011 5:50:18 AM PST by Born Conservative
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To: Tribune7

It’s getting interesting....

2 posted on 02/11/2011 5:51:08 AM PST by Born Conservative ("I'm a fan of disruptors" - Nancy Pelosi)
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To: Born Conservative
Kids lives destroyed to fill a juvenile detention center by brides to a judge from the builder...
3 posted on 02/11/2011 5:54:32 AM PST by 2banana (My common ground with terrorists - they want to die for islam and we want to kill them)
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To: Born Conservative

“What the hell is a prothonotary?” Harry S. Truman 1948.

4 posted on 02/11/2011 6:01:15 AM PST by CholeraJoe ("And if you disagree with me, you are worse than Hitler." Greg Gutfeld)
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To: 2banana
The entire juvenile system is a criminal racket.
Then they do everything in their power to make sure they keep enough kids in the system to justify their fat paychecks which were “confiscated” from hard working productive members of society.
5 posted on 02/11/2011 6:09:18 AM PST by winodog
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To: Born Conservative


6 posted on 02/11/2011 6:19:26 AM PST by Springfield Reformer (Winston Churchill: No Peace Till Victory!)
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To: winodog
The entire juvenile system is a criminal racket.

The entire juvenile prison system is a criminal racket. The California guards union being the apex example. A greater emphasis on Second Amendment rights and the individual's right to self defense would reduce the need for this gigantic tax-skimming system by about 90%, which is one of the reasons so many government entities jump enthusiastically on the anti-gun bandwagon.

7 posted on 02/11/2011 6:26:02 AM PST by Mr. Jeeves ( "The right to offend is far more important than any right not to be offended." - Rowan Atkinson)
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To: Mr. Jeeves

Good point and I would go further

The entire US federal government is a criminal enterprise that only exists because they have the power to destroy your life if you dont comply with any of tens of thousands of laws that are designed to make everyone a criminal.

They work the same way and apply the same tactics that their left arm, the juvie and adult justice system works.

8 posted on 02/11/2011 6:43:38 AM PST by winodog
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To: Mr. Jeeves
The entire juvenile prison system is a criminal racket.


There are several things very wrong with the current penal system. Probably the worst offender is the State that inserts itself between the vic and the perp. In the good old days, before the King made every person in the Kingdom his personal property, if a Rob stole Peter's sheep, then Rob owed Peter three times what he stole. The King, forgetting that he was collecting tribute/taxes from Peter, figured that Peter couldn't afford to hunt down and prosecute Rob, and the King further rationalized that Rob didn't actually steal from Peter, rather Rob stole sheep from the King, and thus Rob owed the King duty to cover the King's legal costs in prosecuting Rob.

So Peter, might have been a man of means, or he might have banded with family or community to lynch Rob and apply localized and very effective justice. The alleged problem with this is that one community might sentence the thief to death after several days of torture (since American Idol wasn't the staple of entertainment back then). So the Roman Catholic Church stepped in, noting that theft was actually a moral crime, and working with the State to keep both the Church and State well funded, called for "mercy" which was yet another way to justify the King taking over.

Over the years, the Church was replaced with misotheistic Progressives who no longer viewed theft as a actual property and moral crime but a misguided response to the oppression of Society and the Rich. In other words, Rob stole from Peter because society oppressed Rob and thus Peter must pay more in taxes to counter the generations of oppression that Rob's ancestors had to withstand - all administered by the King and his growing cadre of Progressives who would administrate this growing social task.

It doesn't take much imagination to see how this has all been perverted now into a system where the crims and the King have a symbiotic relationship - where they both need each other to survive. The King can now rationalize extracting profound wealth from the serfs to combat ambiguous "social ills" that have prompted our dear Rob to resort to stealing. Furthermore, in return of using Rob's condition to justify the King's plundering of the people, the King writes laws that makes it a criminal event for the potential victim of a crime to thwart the impending crime or to seek justice independently. Translated, it means, if Rob tries to steal your sheep and you attempt to shoot Rob, the King will end up shooting you. The only ones allowed to shoot the serfs are the King's sheriffs.

The modern penal system is now made up of police officers protecting the crims, ensuring that rapists and thieves have a safe working environment. That is why the Left gets exercised over 2nd Amendment issues, after all, they have a quid pro quo relationship with the criminal element, and must protect their "investments".

9 posted on 02/11/2011 6:47:47 AM PST by The Theophilus
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To: Born Conservative
If Prothonotary Jill Moran is singing like a bird, she might be a Prothonotary Warbler.
10 posted on 02/11/2011 7:54:29 AM PST by upchuck (When excerpting please use the entire 300 words we are allowed. No more one or two sentence posts!)
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To: Owl_Eagle; brityank; Physicist; WhyisaTexasgirlinPA; GOPJ; abner; baseballmom; Mo1; Ciexyz; ...

Zappala, fwiw, is the son of a former state Supreme Court judge and the brother of the Allegheny County DA.

11 posted on 02/11/2011 8:15:56 AM PST by Tribune7 (The Democrat Party is not a political organization but a religious cult.)
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To: Born Conservative

“testified that he picked up packages from Powell and delivered them to Conahan without knowing the content, a practice he said was not uncommon among lawyers and judges. “


12 posted on 02/11/2011 10:49:06 AM PST by UCANSEE2 (Lame and ill-informed post.)
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