Democrat Judge Mark Arthur Ciavarella, Jr. was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison in what has been called “Kids for Cash”. Ciavearella was convicted of racketeering, fraud, money laundering, extortion, bribery, conspiracy, and tax evasion for soliciting kickbacks from Robert Powell and Robert Mericle, the co-owner and builder respectively, of two private, taxpayer funded, for-profit juvenile facilities. Former Luzerne County Senior Judge Michael Conahan also plead guilty to the same charges.
Sandra M. Brulo, Deputy Director of Forensic Services, plead guilty to obstruction of justice. Miss Brulo was responsible for making treatment and rehabilitation recommendations to the court.
Ciavarella sentenced children to extended stays in juvenile detention for offenses as minimal as mocking a principal on Myspace, trespassing in a vacant building, and shoplifting DVDs from Wal-mart in exchange for $2.6 million he and his codefendant received from the for-profit juvenlie facility.
Despite the intervention of a public interest law firm in 2007, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court failed to grant relief until embarrassed into action by the federal corruption charges.
Justice might never have been done if not for a whistleblower who provided incriminating information to the FBI, the agency that finally investigated the federal charges and presented them to the US Attorney for prosecution.
In the five years before they were caught, attorneys, law enforcement officials and other judges failed to report Ciavarella or Conahan’s’s behavior to the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania. Despite their clear moral failure the Philadelphia Bar Association has “expressed outrage”, assuring the public that the rest of the judges on the state’s bench are “composed of highly qualified, honorable and honest people, who take their responsibilities to the public very seriously.”
SIMILARITIES TO TEXAS ELDER LOOTING SCANDAL
The Pennsylvania judicial corruption case can be compared to the Texas elder looting probate scandal in several possible elements:
1. Judges, lawyers, bureaucrats, and private parties worked together in a smoothly operating conspiracy.
2. Despite copious evidence of criminal conduct professional organizations that claimed to protect the public interest turned their heads away until embarrassed into action.
3. Despite copious evidence of criminal conduct appelate courts covered for the lower courts until embarrassed into action.
4. Legislators celebrated the propriety and honor of the judicial criminals right up to the moment the indictments were handed up.
5. “Privacy” laws designed to protect individuals were instead used to obscure criminal behavior.
6. A whistleblower broke the case.
Bruno died shortly after sentencing. With good behavior Ciavarella and Conahan could be released in as few as 24 years. The child victims face a longer sentence.