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More Revelations in NE PA :"Kids for Cash" Court Scandal

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JPZenger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-15-09 10:22 PM
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More Revelations in NE PA :"Kids for Cash" Court Scandal


"A commission is working to determine how former Judges Ciavarella and Conahan could have conspired over five years to deprive thousands of children of their most basic constitutional rights and send them off in shackles to detention centers in which the judges had personal financial interests. "There are many reasons that this tragedy occurred, but intimidation was clearly one of them," said Superior Court Judge John M. Cleland ..."Part of this fear factor was greed and ambition on the part of court personnel."

Conahan and Ciavarella are charged with ... taking $2.8 million in payments from the builder and former co-owner of two private juvenile detention facilities.

Even before being declared delinquent, juveniles were sent to detention centers for as long as two weeks to await psychological evaluations. They would eventually be examined by the court-appointed psychologist, Frank Vita, Conahan's brother-in-law. Vita's recommendations were nearly always the same - "placement," meaning jail. Hearings before Conahan, which often lasted only a few minutes, were typically interrupted by conversations about college and professional football games and NASCAR racing between the judge and arresting officers and other court personnel. Ciavarella also used the opportunity to collect and pay bets made on games.

Ciavarella established a special "fines court" that would send children to detention centers until their parents could pay for fines imposed by district judges. In one case cited at the hearings, an 11-year-old boy was taken away when his parents were unable to pay a $488 fine. Although the child was only 4-foot-2 and 63 pounds, Ciavarella had him handcuffed and placed in leg shackles.

Conahan's aura of power was enhanced by his longtime association with reputed organized crime figures in Northeast Pennsylvania. Federal court testimony this year said he and William "Big Billy" D'Elia met regularly at a favorite booth in a local restaurant. D'Elia, reputed leader of one of the nation's oldest organized crime families, is serving nine years in federal prison on money-laundering and witness-tampering charges.

Petrilla also told the commission that the levels of cronyism and nepotism in the court system were "extremely high," and this was one reason that no one in the courthouse challenged the treatment of juvenile defendants. "The courts hired family and friends, and as a result of the hiring of family and friends, those people who may have seen wrongdoing remained silent," she said."
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JPZenger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-15-09 10:34 PM
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1. It Gets Worse


"Ciavarella treated juveniles who appeared in his courtroom as vacuous pawns, ignoring their medical conditions and emotional frailties as he had them handcuffed, shackled and locked away, the juveniles and their parents testified Monday. The so-called "zero-tolerance" judge reluctantly released a 14-year-old girl to house arrest after seizures nearly killed her, the girl's mother told a state panel investigating the Luzerne County kids-for-cash scheme.

The girl, identified by the panel as A.K. to protect her identity, had been convicted of vandalism for writing on five stop signs with a felt-tip marker. Ciavarella's punishment, an open-ended placement in a juvenile detention facility, could have kept her behind bars until she turned 21, her mother, identified by the panel as R.K., said.

Without her epilepsy medication, she lasted less than a week. Two days after being transferred to PA Child Care, a for-profit juvenile detention facility in Pittston Township, A.K. suffered a seizure so severe she banged her head against the cement wall next to her bed. The impact cracked her braces and the trauma eventually sent her home.

"There's people with worse illnesses in jail, don't think I won't throw you back," Ciavarella said as he released her from detention, according to the girl's mother, R.K.

The parents of a 15-year-old rape victim said they experienced the same callousness in Ciavarella's courtroom. The girl, originally convicted for throwing rocks over a telephone wire and accidentally hitting a neighbor's daughter in the face, spiraled out of control after the rape, her mother, G.H., said.

The girl's parents told the panel they visited with Ciavarella before the hearing on the rock-throwing charges. He admonished them for even talking about her rape, they said. "It does not matter," Ciavarella said, according to the girl's parents. "She has to pay for what she did. Do not mention it in my courtroom."
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