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Author Topic: Pennsylvania judges took kickbacks to send kids to juvie
Samprimary
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quote:
Pa. judges accused of jailing kids for cash

Justice denied: Pa. judges accused of taking kickbacks to send youngsters to juvenile prison


MICHAEL RUBINKAM and MARYCLAIRE DALE Associated Press Writers

AP

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."

nice, right?
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Lisa
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Sounds like the Gardner Home for Boys in The Talisman.
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Kwea
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Wow.
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Phanto
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Horrible.
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BlackBlade
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Sickens me. I wish there was some way to calculate about how much excess time he tacked onto people and compel him to serve that amount in prison.
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Artemisia Tridentata
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Looking at the title, I had visions of the good old days, when you could slip a $20 to the Clerk of the board and have your son drafted.

This is so much more serious. The Judge and the facility operators all should be looking at time themselves.

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Dobbie
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The trial finally started today.
http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/alleged-victims-comment-on-ciavarella-s-return-to-court-1.1101139#axzz1DK1XgXg3

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Samprimary
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Movin' at the speed of justice hyar
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Hobbes
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I didn't see this thread when posted in 2009, now I kind of wish I still hadn't. I think I'm going to vomit.

Hobbes [Smile]

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DDDaysh
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I have to agree with Hobbes on this one. It's strange, because I'm usually a person who reads stories about kids getting "too harsh" a punishment and think "the little brat knew the consequences beforehand and needs to just shut up and take it."

This goes so far beyond that though. Sending kids to kiddie prison for things that deserve a couple of weeks doing community service is terrible! It can totally wreck lives and I'm sure it cost the taxpayers a fortune. I sure hope the jury doesn't go light on the judges! I hope we don't end up seeing "house arrest" instead!

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Samprimary
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I see they got on this before he died of old age.

I guess that's encouraging. I don't know how well PA does in the general scheme of gnarled justice systems.

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AchillesHeel
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False imprisonment for children makes for some horrible criminals later in life, people who maybe arent as immature and impulsive but just as violent and entitled if not more so. It is extremely disheartening to think that this man may have born many of the worst criminals in a generation.

I cant help but think about how a young Charles Manson was moved to a higher security boy's home after he began stealing cars to escape the home he was placed in simply because his mother didnt want the burden of a child. At twenty-one he had already spent the majority of his life imprisoned in one way or another, this "judge" should be ashamed of himself for doing something not unlike this to innocent children.

[ February 08, 2011, 09:38 AM: Message edited by: AchillesHeel ]

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Ryoko
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Judge Smails: I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them.

Caddyshack

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kmbboots
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Wasn't this a Law and Order episode?
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katharina
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It was EXACTLY the plot of a first season The Good Wife episode.
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rivka
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Yup, I remember that one.
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Dobbie
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Victory!
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
The case against Ciavarella made national headlines when a distraught mother lashed out at the former judge Friday after his conviction.

Sandy Fonzo's 17-year-old son, Edward Kenzakowski, spent six months in a detention center after Ciavarella sentenced him for possession of drug paraphernalia.

According to Fonzo, her son, who had no prior record, was never able to recover and eventually took his own life.

link
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BlackBlade
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Every time I hear about this story I get angry all over again. The first time was on Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story.
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Rakeesh
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A story like this makes me think of (as many things do) of Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, and the not uncommonly threatened specter of the punishment for high treason on the part of a Vor lord (that's the military aristocracy caste in the story) against the emperor. They would be imprisoned in the Imperium's chief public space for all to see and then left there to die by starvation.

I'm not a fan of capital punishment, but the idea in that particular setting (the particular punishment was an anachronism that hadn't quite been weeded out yet) was that the Vor had as their particular obligation to serve both people and Emperor honorably, and that went right along with all of their (and there were a lot) considerable perks. And if they violated that obligation badly enough, the punishment would be fierce.

Again, not a fan of capital punishment, but short of that I admit I think I would like what it would say about us as a society if we made the penalties for transgressions like these (always assuming they're accurate) draconian to the extreme. Heck, insert a clause in laws whereby public servants who abuse their authority over their charges have a specifically not just longer but also more unpleasant sentence-no minimum security, and perhaps also hard labor. Though I don't think that's done anymore.

I think it would be very fair, and I can't help but think it would be effective. If you aspire to have power over others, it seems only reasonable that you yield to them power over you if you get caught wronging them.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
Every time I hear about this story I get angry all over again.

I don't know what does it about this story when there's always so much worse to be found, from various autocratic regimes to middle east wankery to prison abuses to cynical american political schemes run by larger players than this guy. It's just this perfect combination of abuse of power plus the nature of the victim.
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Rakeesh
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He reminds me of Potter from It's a Wonderful Life. It's just so crass, so brazenly sleazy and self-interested and for such tawdry gain. I guess when I read about corruption, it just makes more sense when it's big-not just big in scope as in terrible regimes or billions of dollars, but also morally terrible of the sort we usually read about.

Maybe that's why it makes us angrier: because we're closer to being the villain in this case. I don't mean that I'd sign a kid off to detention for half a year for a kick back, but I'm certainly much closer to that than I am to conducting mass exterminations. And then there's the fact that this guy, prior to his outing, is probably much closer to an internal 'us' than anyone would like.

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Stephan
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Wasn't this an episode of Leverage from last season?
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Maybe that's why it makes us angrier: because we're closer to being the villain in this case. I don't mean that I'd sign a kid off to detention for half a year for a kick back, but I'm certainly much closer to that than I am to conducting mass exterminations. And then there's the fact that this guy, prior to his outing, is probably much closer to an internal 'us' than anyone would like.
For me, the issue at stake is that this happened in MY country. I was taught as a child that this kind of thing didn't happen in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I was indoctrinated to believe America meant liberty and JUSTICE for ALL. I was lead to be believe that corruption was hallmark of oppressive regimes. I was taught that we Americans held ourselves higher standard, that we were the shining example of human rights for the world.

I know that this is an ideal taught to children that America has never actually lived up to. But still, I believe we should and it offends me much more when we don't than when some dictator in some third world hell hole that's never pretended to respect rights of humans does far worse things. I was taught Americans should hold America to a higher standard than that so I do.

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Dobbie
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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
quote:
The case against Ciavarella made national headlines when a distraught mother lashed out at the former judge Friday after his conviction.

Sandy Fonzo's 17-year-old son, Edward Kenzakowski, spent six months in a detention center after Ciavarella sentenced him for possession of drug paraphernalia.

According to Fonzo, her son, who had no prior record, was never able to recover and eventually took his own life.

link
http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/father-of-suicidal-man-in-kids-for-cash-case-i-basically-framed-him-1.1109221#axzz1EpT0igv6
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Glenn Arnold
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Yeah, I got that. As I read it, the father thought that by planting the paraphernalia and getting the kid in trouble, he would think it belonged to his friends and leave them behind. That's a pretty dirty trick, but I doubt the father counted on the kid getting six months in juvie.

You can spread the guilt around a bit, but the judge is the major player here.

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DDDaysh
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Well,the mother is probably lying to herself by believing everything would have been "just fine" if it wasn't for this judge. Obviously the kid was already having problems, or the father wouldn't have been taken the action he did.

On the other hand, what the judge did was terrible enough to be a breaking point for a kid already near the edge, and his part in pushing this kid over is pretty inexcusable. I wonder what's going to happen in the civil suit.

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Dobbie
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http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/ciavarella-sentenced-to-28-years-surrenders-to-u-s-marshals-1.1187352#axzz1V9Fi6ypf
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Samprimary
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quote:
A defiant Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. was sentenced to 28 years in prison and ordered to pay $965,000 in restitution this morning after reading a statement to the court in which he denied trading "kids for cash."

"Those three words made me the personification of evil. They made me the devil. They made me the anti-Christ. They made me toxic," Ciavarella told U.S. District Judge Edwin M. Kosik.

perhaps you should not have traded kids for cash then
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Samprimary
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just a suggestion
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
just a suggestion

True story.
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Rakeesh
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Even if he 'only' did what he admits to...it's just strange to me, the nerve he's got in assuming even an implied moral authority of any kind. It doesn't surprise me, people being people, but I put my head in that setting, and imagine getting holier than thou about anything, and it just fizzles.
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steven
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A judge...in prison...that will be interesting...
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Lyrhawn
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I think what's so infuriating about this case, to me, is how much damage he did to the most vulnerable people in the country. Kids, in this situation, simply don't have the means to defend themselves. And what might seem like small punishments, a few months in Juvi, can have catastrophic effects on kids who were previously on the straight and narrow. It only takes a minor bump at that age to send a life spinning wildly out of control. The damage can be irreversible.

Abuse of authority is bad, but using it in such a way to destroy hundreds of lives for personal profit, in ways that lead to a lifetime of suffering, it's just shocking that someone could be so callous when they have that much control over a child's life.

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Samprimary
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And then it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons

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Dobbie
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http://www.timesleader.com/news/Conahan-sentenced-to-.html

http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/powell-sentenced-to-18-months-1.1227831

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BlackBlade
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Every time I'm reminded of this story, I get irrationally angry.
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Rakeesh
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I get the same way, but personally think there aren't many levels of anger that would be irrational for this. I think I suggested I wouldn't be, y'know, strongly opposed or anything to even capital punishment or really, really extreme punishment for things like this.
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