Corruption Continues To Be Non Stop
In September 2009, a federal grand jury in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, returned a 48-count indictment against two judges, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan. The indictment included conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, conspiracy to commit tax fraud, honest services fraud, racketeering, bribery, money laundering and extortion. The basis of these charges was an alleged kickback arrangement with private prison operators that netted the Luzerne County judges more than $2.6 million over at least seven years. Conahan colluded with private prison operators to shut down the county-run juvenile detention center in favor of privately run facilities and Ciavarella did much of the sentencing that filled the new detention centers’ beds. The private juvenile detention centers received state funding proportionate to the number of offenders that they housed; thus, they were incentivized to house as many individuals as feasible.
The judges deliberately funneled juvenile offenders (who were often advised by the judges that they did not need legal counsel) into the private juvenile detention centers, regardless of whether the charges merited the punishment. One 16-year-old was arrested for gesturing with her middle finger at a police officer responding to a custody dispute involving her parents and sister. Ciavarella sentenced her to six months in juvenile detention. A 14-year-old was sentenced to three months in juvenile detention for mocking a school principal on Myspace. At least 5,000 juveniles appeared before Ciavarella in the five years preceding the discovery of the scheme, many unrepresented and severely punished for minor infractions.
The FBI and IRS began investigating the judges after another Luzerne County judge, Anne H. Lokuta, accused Conahan of conspiring to remove her from the bench (she was, in fact, removed from the bench in November 2008). Lokuta aided federal investigators in discovering the kickback arrangement. After the full extent of the scheme was discovered, hundreds of juvenile adjudications were ordered overturned.
The so-called “kids-for-cash” scheme is an alarming reminder of the amount of damage that a dishonest judiciary can cause. The scheme not only defrauded taxpayers of millions of dollars, but also
“The Federal Judiciary is Pure Fraud”