Skip to comments.Ex-judge Ciavarella angry, defiant at sentencing
Posted on 08/13/2011 5:07:38 AM PDT by Born Conservative
SCRANTON - At first, it was a seemingly chastened Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. who stood at a podium Thursday to address the court.
The former Luzerne County judge apologized to his family, to the county bench and bar, to the juvenile probation officers who worked in his courtroom.
Reading from a prepared statement, he asked the people of Luzerne County to forgive him for "violating the trust they placed in me" and told the juvenile offenders who appeared in his court that he had shown himself to be a "hypocrite by not practicing what I preached."
Then Ciavarella's statement took an angry and defiant turn.
He savaged key prosecution witness Robert J. Powell, who testified he and developer Robert K. Mericle paid Ciavarella and another county judge, Michael T. Conahan, $2.8 million for lodging juveniles in two for-profit detention centers built by Mericle and co-owned by Powell.
"Bob Powell is a liar and self-centered individual who would say and do anything to protect himself," Ciavarella said.
Then Ciavarella took aim at the lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Zubrod, saying Zubrod had introduced the term "kids for cash" to describe the case, setting off a wave of negative international publicity.
"Those three words made me the personification of evil. They made me the Antichrist and the devil. Those words caused untold hurt and agony for me and my family. They made me toxic."
Ciavarella accused the government of playing up the kids-for-cash angle to inflame public opinion and then failing to present any evidence of it at trial.
"The reason attorney Zubrod did not present this type of evidence at my trial was because there was no believable, credible evidence that would establish a connection between the money I received and the children I placed," Ciavarella said.
He challenged prosecutors to release his entire investigative file.
"Let it all become public and allow everyone to judge," Ciavarella said. "You see your Honor, this case has never been a search for the truth, it has always been 'Let's get a conviction at any cost.'"
Ciavarella said prosecutors had threatened to prosecute his daughter Lauren for money laundering to pressure him to plead guilty. Ciavarella's attorney, Al Flora Jr., said the threat was tied to Ciavarella's transfer to his daughter of the proceeds from the 2008 sale of his home. Prosecutors have portrayed that transaction as an effort to protect his assets from forfeiture.
"The only reason I did not enter a plea was because my daughter Lauren told me if I did not fight for what I believed in and fight against those crimes which I did not commit, she would never speak to me again," Ciavarella said.
Ciavarella maintained he was found guilty only of accepting nearly $1 million from Mericle, which he considered a legitimate finder's fee for introducing Mericle to the detention-center project, and filing false tax returns.
"But yet I stand before you guilty for being the 'kids-for-cash' judge when the allegation was never presented by the government to the jury," Ciavarella said.
Under subsequent questioning by U.S. District Judge Edwin M. Kosik about a special state commission's report that he failed to properly inform juveniles of their right to counsel, imprisoned them on minor charges and instituted policies that inflated detention rates, Ciavarella denied the commission's conclusions and those of the state Supreme Court, which vacated thousands of his juvenile court rulings.
"My courtroom was not run any different than other juvenile courtrooms in Northeastern Pennsylvania," Ciavarella maintained. "It was run as a treatment court. It was run to help children...
"I never violated any children's Constitutional rights."
Following the sentencing, U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith said Ciavarella's statement about the lack of "kids for cash" evidence was "a very clever and interesting lawyer's argument."
"The juvenile justice system is the responsibility primarily of the state of Pennsylvania. We can't decide or rehear juvenile cases in a federal criminal proceeding," Smith said.
"It is fair to say that there was no evidence presented regarding a specific cash payment to Ciavarella or Conahan for any particular individual juvenile sent to facilities owned or controlled by Powell or Mericle," Smith said. "The facts showed clearly here that it was the overall corrupt scheme that contaminated the entire system."
Smith said Ciavarella's call for release of his file was a cynical tactic.
"He knows and his lawyers know we can't release the file. We can't release grand jury information."
Zubrod said Ciavarella's speech was indicative of the type of behavior he used to control and intimidate those who appeared in his courtroom.
"I think that's his way of doing things. Never retreat. Always go on the attack. Always blame somebody else. Always get them to back off," Zubrod said.
"He tried it with the judge. It didn't work."
28 years. He’s 61 now so that is pretty much a life sentence.
I would not be too quick to dispute this statement.
Welcome to the legal system Judge.
Why does he get to keep the million dollars of dirty money?
Actually, he was seen recently painting houses for money, and turning in scrap metal. However, I don’t doubt that he has hidden assets somewhere.
Frankly, I have little sympathy for your problems. You made yourself toxic. Oh and welcome to the legal system.
Oh, and by the way, don’t drop the soap.
The only thing worse than a lawyer is a judge. Pathetic loser.
In case anyone missed it in the article. Judge Ciavarella is a Democrat.
He could of got away with 7 years max. but his arrogance doomed him:
...Ciavarella pleaded guilty on February 13, 2009, pursuant to a plea agreement, to federal charges of honest services fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion..
...The plea agreement called for Ciavarella to serve up to seven years in prison, pay fines and restitution, and accept responsibility for the crimes. However, Ciavarella has denied that there was a connection between the juvenile sentences he rendered and the kickbacks he received. In part because of this denial, on July 30, 2009, Judge Edwin M. Kosik of Federal District Court in Scranton, Pennsylvania rejected the plea agreement.
Good Read,Thanks Tribune7.
My thoughts exactly.
May he rot in hell.
His partner-in-crime, ex-judge Michael Conahan, an un-indicted co-conspirator in a 90’s cocaine case, and the other judge in “Kids for Cash”, pled guilty, but hasn’t been sentenced yet. I suspect he’s not yet done singing to the Feds.