The Truth Tracker

“Tracking The Truth, Because the Mainstream Media Won’t”

Corruption in the Judicial System!!

with 10 comments

Pa. judges accused of jailing kids for cash

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – For years, the juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre operated like a conveyor belt: Youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer, given hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses.

The explanation, prosecutors say, was corruption on the bench.

In one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record, two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers.

“I’ve never encountered, and I don’t think that we will in our lifetimes, a case where literally thousands of kids’ lives were just tossed aside in order for a couple of judges to make some money,” said Marsha Levick, an attorney with the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which is representing hundreds of youths sentenced in Wilkes-Barre.

Prosecutors say Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC. The judges were charged on Jan. 26 and removed from the bench by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court shortly afterward.

No company officials have been charged, but the investigation is still going on.

The high court, meanwhile, is looking into whether hundreds or even thousands of sentences should be overturned and the juveniles’ records expunged.

Among the offenders were teenagers who were locked up for months for stealing loose change from cars, writing a prank note and possessing drug paraphernalia. Many had never been in trouble before. Some were imprisoned even after probation officers recommended against it.

Many appeared without lawyers, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1967 ruling that children have a constitutional right to counsel.

The judges are scheduled to plead guilty to fraud Thursday in federal court. Their plea agreements call for sentences of more than seven years behind bars.

Ciavarella, 58, who presided over Luzerne County’s juvenile court for 12 years, acknowledged last week in a letter to his former colleagues, “I have disgraced my judgeship. My actions have destroyed everything I worked to accomplish and I have only myself to blame.” Ciavarella, though, has denied he got kickbacks for sending youths to prison.

Conahan, 56, has remained silent about the case.

Many Pennsylvania counties contract with privately run juvenile detention centers, paying them either a fixed overall fee or a certain amount per youth, per day.

In Luzerne County, prosecutors say, Conahan shut down the county-run juvenile prison in 2002 and helped the two companies secure rich contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, at least some of that dependent on how many juveniles were locked up.

One of the contracts — a 20-year agreement with PA Child Care worth an estimated $58 million — was later canceled by the county as exorbitant.

The judges are accused of taking payoffs between 2003 and 2006.

Robert J. Powell co-owned PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care until June. His attorney, Mark Sheppard, said his client was the victim of an extortion scheme.

“Bob Powell never solicited a nickel from these judges and really was a victim of their demands,” he said. “These judges made it very plain to Mr. Powell that he was going to be required to pay certain monies.”

For years, youth advocacy groups complained that Ciavarella was ridiculously harsh and ran roughshod over youngsters’ constitutional rights. Ciavarella sent a quarter of his juvenile defendants to detention centers from 2002 to 2006, compared with a statewide rate of one in 10.

The criminal charges confirmed the advocacy groups’ worst suspicions and have called into question all the sentences he pronounced.

Hillary Transue did not have an attorney, nor was she told of her right to one, when she appeared in Ciavarella’s courtroom in 2007 for building a MySpace page that lampooned her assistant principal.

Her mother, Laurene Transue, worked for 16 years in the child services department of another county and said she was certain Hillary would get a slap on the wrist. Instead, Ciavarella sentenced her to three months; she got out after a month, with help from a lawyer.

“I felt so disgraced for a while, like, what do people think of me now?” said Hillary, now 17 and a high school senior who plans to become an English teacher.

Laurene Transue said Ciavarella “was playing God. And not only was he doing that, he was getting money for it. He was betraying the trust put in him to do what is best for children.”

Kurt Kruger, now 22, had never been in trouble with the law until the day police accused him of acting as a lookout while his friend shoplifted less than $200 worth of DVDs from Wal-Mart. He said he didn’t know his friend was going to steal anything.

Kruger pleaded guilty before Ciavarella and spent three days in a company-run juvenile detention center, plus four months at a youth wilderness camp run by a different operator.

“Never in a million years did I think that I would actually get sent away. I was completely destroyed,” said Kruger, who later dropped out of school. He said he wants to get his record expunged, earn his high school equivalency diploma and go to college.

“I got a raw deal, and yeah, it’s not fair,” he said, “but now it’s 100 times bigger than me.”

God Bless,
The Truth Tracker
Jason R. Bootie
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10 Responses

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  1. As a lawyer I am outraged by this story. The only good thing is that these “judges” are going to jail. I am, though, amazed that something like this could go on for years without anyone taking action.

    Jonathan Simeone

    February 12, 2009 at 1:31 AM

    • Hello Mr. Simeone. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      I couldn’t agree more that this is outrageous and that is why I posted it. You also make a very good point, on how in the world could this have been going on for years without questions coming up.

      I’m curious though, to see if the co-owner is trying to just pin it on the judges because he knows they will be the main story line, or if he is telling the truth that they somehow were blackmailing him in a sense.

      God Bless,
      TTT

      truthtracker

      February 12, 2009 at 1:40 AM

  2. […] Sentenced by Judges who Were Taking Bribes By Jonathan Simeone Thanks to Truth Tracker, I was able to read about two Pennsylvania judges who have plead guilty to taking bribes in exchange […]

  3. This is one of the most shocking news stories to appear in recent times. These judges have more than disgraced themselves and the bench. They and all others involved should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible, and the records of those whose lives they affected or even ruined should be expunged.

    David

    February 12, 2009 at 7:53 AM

    • David you are so right and as the story states at least one of those effected is fighting to have that happen. But in my opinion it should be an automatic action.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      God Bless,
      TTT

      truthtracker

      February 12, 2009 at 9:04 AM

  4. Not surprised. Been there done that. I have been those kids, except I lost my entire adolesccence, not just a few months. I don’t know why people are so surprised, we treat our children like trash. We abort them, we pawn them off on nannies and other “professionals.” We allow schools to indoctrinate them and use them for monetary gain! Why the sudden outrage? America has long since abandoned its youth! When your kids get inconvenient we ship them off to some place where you can’t be bothered. What is shocking is not that it happened but that it is being reported. This is just par for the course. That doesn’t mean I condone this behavior, it is reprehensible. I am just not stunned by it. This is no more “news breaking” then telling me the sky is blue.

    blacknright

    February 13, 2009 at 12:43 AM

  5. Well, those judges are not so smart either – those youngsters will go out from a jail and will try to hurt them. They will live the rest of their short life in fear.

    Semeon

    February 13, 2009 at 9:41 AM

  6. Someone close to me appeared before Ciavarella a while back. I’m happy to see that the truth is coming out. The problem is, I’ve been doing some digging over the past year into my local judical system, and I’ve dug up some things that sound pretty similar to what is happening in PA. But, who do you report it to? I went to a local FBI agent about a particular judge, and once the judge’s name was revealed, and I got the reply of, “Oh yeah, I know Judge [whoever]” our conversation was ended shortly thereafter. This was in July. Where do we turn? Corruption is everywhere and needs to be exposed! Thanks for listening.

    KidsRNot4Commerce

    February 24, 2009 at 4:58 PM

    • Well thanks for responding. And my advice for you is to keep letting people know about the info you found out. Never give up if you think someone is being corrupt and it is dealing with the welfare of our younger generations. (Now I mean even if the corruption does not deal with our youth, it NEEDS to be reported and taken care of, but the problem needs to be handled especially when dealing with our younger generations.)

      If you would like, you can email me @ jtbootie@embarqmail.com because I’ll look into where you can turn to if the FBI individual decided to turn a blind eye. Because if there is corruption and this person just shrugged you off, than they are just as bad as the others.

      God Bless,
      TTT

      truthtracker

      February 25, 2009 at 7:20 AM

  7. dear sirs. i live in marshall co. al i have written proof that this is going on in my court ordered juvenile drug court ,however after 35,000 dollars later,i cant find anybody who can help,believe me i am caught in the middle of this,and i have proof in writing of everything.if you can help please do so ,hundreds of juveniles are being sent to boot camps in this county for failing their court operated drug test, my son being one even though i hane had numerous blood,urine and hair folical test done elsewhere and he has never tested positve on any of these they”the court” refuses to accept these test as evidence he is now facing his second trip to boot camp.i want this story told but i am afraid for my families life if i do it here in this county,i have a attorney unfortunatly we know believe he is also getting kickbacks ,nobody would believe this if they had not lived thru it like my family and i have. as i said i do have written court records,and most of the drug test results.they have now forbidden us to see the results because we have fought so hard to prove them wrong and have succeeded please help me.

    debra maze

    April 20, 2010 at 11:45 AM


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