Kids For Cash / Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
One egregious example of Government oppression from within the court system occurred in Pennsylvania. Kids For Cash, supra. Two prominent judges were involved in a criminal scheme from which both judges are now serving prison sentences for their criminal actions in a judicial scandal known as — Kids For Cash! More than a dozen court officers or employees were later indicted for crimes related to the Kids For Cash scandal.
“Kids For Cash” is a judicial scandal that was investigated ONLY because of a tragic event.
In 2009, a federal investigation of Luzerne County courts unveiled a pattern and practice of criminal behavior from the bench supporting a scheme of State-Sanctioned Stealing and State-Sanctioned Kidnapping of minors.
The investigation exposed judges and others operating from within the courthouse engaging in egregious criminal misconduct; Domestic Terrorism. Their crimes involved depriving juveniles of due process of law and then sentencing them to juvenile detention camps; State-Sanctioned Kidnapping.
After one of the juvenile victims committed suicide, prompting an investigation by federal authorities, an extensive scheme involving monetary kickbacks to the judges was uncovered. The judges were awarded “finders fees” for sentencing innocent juveniles to detention centers … owned in part by attorneys “acting in concert” with the judges.
Two judges, Judge Mark Ciavarella and President Judge Michael T. Conahan, pleaded guilty in federal court. Both “criminals” accepted plea bargained sentences of 84 months in prison in exchange for full cooperation with investigators. The court later withdrew the sentence(s) on the grounds that the promised cooperation was withheld. These dishonorable public servants demonstrate that even the ‘word’ of some judges cannot be trusted. More than a dozen court officers or employees were later indicted for crimes related to the Kids For Cash scandal.
So much for the “integrity” of our judicial system.
Federal investigators must not be content with cleaning up Luzerne County courts. The federal investigation must be extended throughout this Commonwealth to expose other practices of criminal misconduct from within the judicial branch of government. In some counties, the Office of District Attorney is involved in the criminal misconduct.
This Administrator addressed the issue of corrupt courts in a 2004 Letter to [then] Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts where he likened the criminal misconduct of judges to “Domestic Terrorism”. Criminal alteration of court hearings records from within the courthouse is asserted and remains unanswered: a NON-Denial denial.
COURT SCANDAL: KIDS FOR CASH; Luzerne County, PA,
This episode is excerpted from an Internet article where the reviewer can get a more complete picture concerning the level of corruption in Pennsylvania courts.
Footnotes appended are limited to those cited in this excerpt.
Charges and pleas
A statement from the office of the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania outlined the charges against the two judges, Mark Ciavarella and Michael T. Conahan, on January 26, 2009. The charges outlined in the information described actions between 2000 and 2007 by both judges to assist in the construction and population of private juvenile facilities operated by two Pennsylvania Child Care companies, acting in an official capacity in favor of the private prisons over the facility operated by Luzerne County.
The U.S. Attorney charged that in 2002, Conahan, who at the time was President Judge of the court, used his authority to remove funding for the county-operated facility. The judges were alleged to have received “millions of dollars” in payments for the completion of a binding agreement between the court and the private facilities, co-owned by attorney Robert Powell, to use their services and the subsequent closing of the county facility. The methods used to conceal the payments involved several parties and transactions which resulted in allegations of tax evasion by the two. Ciavarella and Conahan were also charged with “Ordering juveniles to be sent to these facilities in which the judges had a financial interest even when Juvenile Probation Officers did not recommend detention,” according to the statement.
The original, negotiated plea agreement called for both judges to serve up to seven years in prison, pay fines and restitution, and accept responsibility for the crimes. However, on July 30, 2009, Judge Edwin M. Kosik of Federal District Court in nearby Scranton rejected the plea agreement, citing “post-guilty plea conduct and expressions from the defendants” that he ruled did not satisfy the terms of the agreement. Kosik wrote that Conahan and Ciavarella continued to deny their crimes even in the face of overwhelming evidence, and therefore did not merit sentences that were well below federal sentencing guidelines.
Attorneys for the two [discredited] judges brought a motion requesting reconsideration of the judge’s rejection of the plea agreement. The motion was denied on August 24, 2009, and Ciavarella and Conahan subsequently withdrew their guilty pleas, an action which eventually resulted in a jury trial for Ciavarella and additional charges against the former judges.
to Ciavarella and Conahan in exchange for facilitating development of his facilities.
On September 9, 2009, a federal grand jury in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania returned a 48 count indictment against Ciavarella and Conahan including racketeering, fraud, money laundering, extortion, bribery, and federal tax violations. Both judges were arraigned on the charges on September 15, 2009. Ciavarella and Conahan entered pleas of not guilty to the 48 count indictment and remained free on one million dollar bail despite federal prosecutors’ contentions that their bail should be raised since they faced the possibility of substantially more prison time and that there was evidence of their attempts to shield assets.
Robert Powell, an attorney and co-owner of the two juvenile detention facilities at the heart of the scandal, pleaded guilty on July 1, 2009, to failing to report a felony and being an accessory to tax evasion conspiracy, in connection with $770,000 in kickbacks paid to Ciavarella and Conahan in exchange for facilitating development of is facilities. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court temporarily suspended Powell’s law license on September 1, citing his criminal conviction.
Robert Mericle, the prominent real estate developer who built the two juvenile detention facilities, pleaded guilty on September 3, 2009, to failing to disclose a felony, for not revealing to a grand jury that he had paid $2.1 million to Ciavarella and Conahan as a finder’s fee. As part of his plea, Mericle agreed to pay $2.15 million to fund local children’s health and welfare programs. Mericle faces up to three years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine but will likely serve one year or even probation pursuant to his plea agreement.
Sandra Brulo, the former Deputy Director of Forensic Services for the Luzerne County Juvenile Probation Office agreed to plead guilty in March 2009 to federal obstruction of justice. When she became aware that she had been named in the federal civil action, Brulo fabricated a recommendation concerning a juvenile who appeared before the Luzerne County Juvenile Court in September 2007. She backdated the fabricated recommendation and changed her original recommendation of detention to probation.
1 Urbina, Ian (March 27, 2009). “Despite Red Flags, Judges Ran Kickback Scheme for Years”. New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
5 Sisak, Michael (July 1, 2009). “Powell pleads guilty”. The Times-Tribune. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
6 Morgan-Besecker, Terrie (August 25, 2009). “Judges withdraw guilty pleas”. Wikes-Barre Times Leader. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
7 “Indictment – USA v. Conahan and Ciavarella”. September 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-12.
8 Morgan-Besecker, Terrie (September 10, 2009). “Ex-judges hit with 48 counts”. Times Leader. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
9 “U.S. Attorney’s Office News Release”. September 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-10.
18 Peter Hall and Leo Strupczewski (January 28, 2009). “Judges to Serve More Than Seven Years in Prison After Pleading Guilty in Kickbacks Probe”. The Legal Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
23 “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. MICHAEL T. CONAHAN and MARK A. CIAVARELLA, JR., Defendants”. U.S. Department of Justice for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. January 26, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-12.
24 “Press Release”. U.S. Department of Justice for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. January 26, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
25 Urbina, Ian (July 31, 2009). “Plea Agreement by 2 Judges Is Rejected In Pennsylvania”. New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
26 “Memorandum and Order of Judge Kosik”. United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
27 Leo Strupczewski and Hank Grezlak (August 21, 2009). “Former Pa. Judges Ask for Reconsideration of Rejected Pleas”. The Legal Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
28 Morgan-Besecker, Terrie (September 16, 2009). “Ex-jurists plea, still free Magistrate judge declines to raise bail. Federal prosecutors see Conahan, Ciavarella as flight risks.”. Timesleader.com. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
29 Dale, Maryclaire (August 14, 2009). “Luzerne builder latest to admit guilt in scandal”. Associated Press/The Morning Call. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
30 “United States v. Robert Powell”. The United States Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
31 Lewis, Edward (September 2, 2009). “Pa. court suspends Powell’s law license Action taken as Butler Twp. lawyer awaits sentencing in federal corruption probe.”. Timesleader.com. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
32 “United States v. Robert K. Mericle”. The United States Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
33 Morgan-Besecker, Terrie (September 3, 2009). “Mericle pleads guilty”. The Times Leader. Retrieved 2009-09-03.
34 “United States v. Sandra Bruno”. The United States Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
NOTE: “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court temporarily suspended Powell’s law license on September 1, citing his criminal conviction.” Supra. For crimes against the People, the State and the integrity of the judicial system, attorney Powell receives a “temporary” suspension of his law license.*
For reporting judicial misconduct and corruption of the judicial process, criminal alteration of court audio records, DBSC recommended “disbarment” for this Administrator. See Attorney Discipline: Docket No. 123 DB 2004.
* SCOTUS holds that the “practice of law” is an occupation of common right and it is not within the grace of the State to “license” the practice of law. Pennsylvania brings criminal charges for upl; unauthorized practice of law.
The Administrator invites comments and / or rebuttal from any and all judges and prosecutors who object to the content of this site and this page. It becomes your moral “duty” to answer.
“Silence can only be equated with fraud where there is a legal or moral duty to speak or when an inquiry left unanswered would be intentionally misleading.” U.S. v. Tweel, 550 F.2d. 297.