Judge Mark Ciavarella and Judge Michael Conahan
Suppose you had a 15 year old daughter in a high school. She’s a good kid, a good student with a big heart. She’s not perfect (what kid really is?) – her one flaw is when push comes to shove, she shoves back. When she senses she’s being treated unfairly, or worst yet, her friends are, she feels it’s her duty to strike back, figuratively speaking, and it’s gotten her into trouble with the school once or twice.
This time she decided to do a parody of the school’s vice principle. The school overreacts and she’s arrested, but her lawyer is sure because of her clean police record and high GPA that she”ll get a slap on the wrist. Instead, she comes out of the hearing wearing a pair of handcuffs and a brand spanking new 3 month sentence at a Juvenile Detention Facility.
You are now entering the Luzerne County, Pennsylvania juvenile court system – Welcome to Bizarro World! For years, this is how thing worked in Luzerne County: Kids would appear before judges without a lawyer, given hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then given outrageous sentences to juvenile prison for dangerous offenses like – Hmm, let me look this up….ah yes, here we go – writing a fake sick note, stealing loose change from cars, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Many were decent kids who had never been in trouble before. CNN had a short list of these master criminals:
15-year-old Hillary Transue was sentenced to three months at a juvenile detention center on a charge of harassment for mocking an assistant principal on a MySpace page.
13-year-old Shane Bly, who was accused of trespassing in a vacant building, was confined to a boot camp for two weekends.
Kurt Kruger, 17, sentenced to detention and five months of boot camp for helping a friend steal DVDs from Wal-Mart.
Obviously, this sort of thing didn’t happen without a few parents complaining. For years, youth advocacy groups complained that Luzerne County sentences were unusually harsh. Nearly a quarter of its juvenile defendants ended up in detention centers from 2002 to 2006, compared with a state rate of 1 in 10.
It became clear almost immediately that the increase in juvenile sentences began after PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC took over the responsibility of juvenile lockups after the Luzerne County facility lockups were shutdown. More about that later.
By following the paper trail, investigators determined that Judge Mark Ciavarella had presided over nearly all of the questionable cases. Not surprisingly, they also found that the judge had taken kickbacks in exchange for guaranteeing the placement of juvenile offenders into facilities operated by PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care LLC.
Oh yes, and the judge who shut down the state juvenile detention center and used money from the Luzerne County budget to fund a multimillion-dollar lease for the private facilities? None other than Judge Michael T. Conahan.
The way things worked, simply put, is this. With Judge Conahan serving as president judge in control of the budget and Judge Ciavarella overseeing the juvenile courts, they set the kickback scheme in motion in December 2002.
They shut down the county-run juvenile detention center, arguing that it was in poor condition and maintained that the county had no choice but to send detained juveniles to the newly built private detention centers.
Prosecutors say the judges tried to conceal the kickbacks as payments to a company they control in Florida. It has yet to emerge who at Western PA Child Care LLC was in charge of the payoffs, although I prefer to look at it the way The JDJournal.com did:
PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care have not been charged with wrongdoing, for some bizarre reason beyond the comprehension of the human intellect.
Ciavarella pleaded guilty earlier this month to federal criminal charges of fraud and other tax charges, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Conahan also pleaded guilty to the same charges. The two secretly received more than $2.6 million, prosecutors said. They have been disbarred and have resigned from their elected positions, agreed to serve 87 months in prison under plea deals.
Ciavarella acknowledged in a letter to county President Judge Chester Muroski that he disgraced his judgeship:
“While much of what has recently been reported in the press about me is inaccurate or untrue, your statement that I have disgraced my judgeship is true,”
The amount of money these two “judges” received was staggering, but it isn’t the money that makes this a hellworthy offense. It’s the lives of the estimated 5,000 juveniles these two greedy sons of bitches destroyed or damaged beyond repair, all for the sake of the almighty dollar, that will have Ciavarella and Conahan roasting their fat asses in the nether regions for eternity. PYSIH is known for being tough when it comes to criminals, and we have no sympathy at all for whining perps who complain that their sentences are unfair. But admin brought this to me, and we were both disgusted with Ciavarella and Conahan.
These two men had a responsibility to these children to do the right thing, to try and teach them some life lessons that would help them grow to be better adults. To be fair, but just. There isn’t a much higher calling than than this. But Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan betrayed these children. They are traitors to the law, to themselves, and to 5000 kids who learned only one thing for sure: Trust no one.
Do Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan Deserve Hell?
- Yes (91%, 189 Votes)
- No (9%, 18 Votes)
Total Voters: 207
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