http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/pa/20100430_Ex-judge_pleads_guilty_in_Luzerne__kids-for-cash__scandal.html This judge should go to prison for the thousands of young lives he destroyed with his money making scheme to send kids to detention facilities while he was paid millions in commission (20 people were in on the deal, including a school superintendent).
There are strong arguments to be made for separating private enterprise and policing and punishment, not the least of which Michael T Conahan has proven beyond mere words (2.8 million dollars in commissions).
I can tolerate the stealing of money but I am not able to stand by and watch children denied their youth because those of us that vote (and run this nation) don’t see the connection between healthy institutions and healthy children.
It is up to us as citizens to have the depth of understanding and concern with our community to see how what happened in Pennsylvania is happening by degrees to youth throughout our state and our nation (just without the commissions).
We have not yet fully understood and agreed that healthy youth make healthy adults and citizens, and that ensuring that youth have a solid chance to be healthy is worth the investment.
Until that happens, we will continue to underfund programs that help struggling children and families with health and mental health and live with the results that we have been getting for so many years. I draw your attention to the ACE study in Ramsey County that points out the great majority of violence and serious crime committed by juveniles in St Paul was committed by youth from three or four percent of the families in the community http://www.tacommunities.org/getfile/view/id/1000/cid/1004/p/folder_1004%252Ffolder_5040
Helping these children helps us all. Better schools, safer streets, a more educated work force, and healthier communities (less frightening newspapers and TV news).
Let’s get behind this; Denounce the cuts in programs (it won’t save money in the long run) Vote for the people that understand the value of healthy youth and families.
Philadelphia Inquirer Posted Friday April 30 2010
Ex-judge pleads guilty in Luzerne ‘kids-for-cash’ scandal
By Trish Wilson
Inquirer Staff Writer
One of two judges at the center of the Luzerne County “kids-for-cash” scandal entered a guilty plea Thursday to one count of racketeering conspiracy, a charge that carries a sentence of up to 20 years’ imprisonment.
As part of his plea agreement, Michael T. Conahan, former president judge of Luzerne County, will also face a maximum $250,000 fine and is to acknowledge his guilt in a labyrinthine scheme that allegedly sent thousands of teenagers to jail – some for minor infractions – in exchange for money.
The agreement also requires Conahan, 58, to give up his license to practice law.
He and Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. were indicted in September 2009 on charges that they conspired to send young defendants to two detention facilities for $2.8 million, the indictment says.
Ciavarella’s lawyer, Al Flora Jr., told the Associated Press on Thursday that his client had no plans to plead guilty. “He’s going to trial,” Flora said.
Both former judges previously pleaded guilty to fraud and tax evasion in exchange for 87-month prison terms, well below federal guidelines. Senior U.S. District Judge Edwin M. Kosik rejected that deal last summer, saying neither man had fully admitted his misdeeds.
The plea that Conahan entered Thursday in federal court in Scranton is “open,” meaning the sentence is to be determined by a judge and not by a prearranged agreement between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Conahan’s defense team.
That lawyer, Arthur Donato Jr. of Media, declined to discuss the guilty plea. “I just don’t think it’s appropriate to comment on the filing of a plea agreement publicly,” he said.
Some found the plea surprising.
“It is yet another novel development along the road to whatever road we’re on,” remarked Marsha Levick, chief counsel for the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, which sued on behalf of about 4,500 young defendants who appeared before Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008.
Levick said Conahan’s plea agreement was so vague that she could not determine exactly what part of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act it referred to.
“He pleaded guilty to one count of RICO, but we don’t know any of the details of what conduct he is admitting he engaged in,” Levick said.
Nevertheless, she said, the acknowledgment of guilt is one she expects may help her in the continuing civil suit.
“I assume he made a calculation that pleading now was in his interest,” she added.
Other lawyers familiar with the case said the plea could have ripple effects in the long-running federal corruption investigation in Luzerne County.
“He’s just opened himself up completely to what the court wants to do to him,” said former prosecutor L. George Parry, a Philadelphia-based lawyer.
“If I had to bet, I would bet that he’s worked out a deal with the feds, he resigns from the bar, he testifies in hopes of mitigation of his sentence, and tries to minimize the damage as much as possible. But that’s all speculation.”
Parry noted that if Conahan were cooperating, he could be of great value.
“If you put it in the context of the overall investigation that’s under way now, the FBI has been very active up there,” he said. “And the way it works now with sentencing guidelines and the government is, you really want to be the first in the door to get the best deal.”
More than 20 people have been caught up in the investigation, including a school superintendent, a third county judge, four courthouse officials, and five school board members.
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