Mark Ciavarella maintained a successful career as the President Judge of Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas before he soiled his hands in the ‘Kids For Cash Scandal’ that would lead to his being prosecuted, and sentenced to 28 years in prison.
The Kids For Cash scandal involves Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan who were accused and sentenced to prison for receiving money in exchange of having thousands of juveniles sent to private juvenile centres for longer times for even diminutive crimes.
Here Are 10 Less Known Facts About Mark Ciavarella
1. How He Became Judge
Upon the completion of high school, Ciavarella went to attend the King’s College and later Duquense Law School. He started his career as a private practitioner and in 1995, he ran for judge in Luzerne County on the Democratic ticket and was elected to serve for 10 years. In 2005, he became reelected to serve another 10 years.
2. His Wife Left Him In The Heat Of The Scandal
It was in 2008 that the scandal-hit, and while the case was still hovering, he got separated with his wife Cindy Baer in 2010. In 2013, she filed for divorce. However, it is not known if the separation and divorce have anything to do with the scandal and conviction.
3. How Much Was Involved In The Kids For Cash Scandal?
Ciavarella was accused of receiving bribe from the co-owner and builder of the private, for-profit juvenile facilities of PA Child Care, Robert Powell and Robert Mericle respectively. In 2009, he pleaded guilty for fraud, and tax evasion that amounted to $2.6 million. However, he later pleaded not guilty of the charges and in 2011; he was found guilty of accepting $997,000.
4. The Result Of Harsh Judgments On Juveniles Allegedly Led To The Suicide Of A Juvenile
The result of Kids For Cash affected the young people involved and their families differently. For Sandy Fonzo, she blamed her son’s suicide on the judgment passed on him by Ciavarella to spend months in the juvenile jail for possessing a little amount of marijuana.
5, His Plea Agreement Was Rejected In Pennsylvania
As mentioned earlier, former judge Ciavarella pleaded guilty to sentencing kids to a privately owned juvenile centres for a longer period of time in exchange of money. While this plea might have led him, Ciavarella and Conahan, to spending 87 months in prison or 7 years and payment of fines; the plea was rejected by Judge Edwin M. Kosik who thought there was an obstruction of justice.
In the judge’s words as cited by The New York Times, “defendant Ciavarella is less obstructive, but instead has resorted to public statements of remorse, more for his personal circumstances, yet he continues to deny what he terms ‘quid pro quo’ his receipt of money as a finder’s fee.
Notwithstanding the government’s abundance of evidence of his routine deprivation of children’s constitutional rights by commitments to private juvenile facilities he helped to create in return for a ‘finder’s fee’ in direct conflict with his judicial roles.” Inasmuch as the comment by the judge was denied by both the attorneys of Ciavarella and Conahan, they went for a trial and were later convicted.
6. Ciavarella Resigned From His Position As Judge
It was in 2009, a month before he pleaded guilty that Ciavarella resigned from his duties as a judge following the accusations and the making public of his involvement in the Kids For Cash Scandal
7. Mark Ciavarella Was Sentenced To 28 Years In Federal Prison
In 2011, he was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison on 12 criminal counts. In August 2020, after he appealed his sentencing, another court judge upheld the ruling, meaning he would have to spend the years slammed on him.
8. He Appealed Severally, And A Number Of The Charges Labeled Against Him Were Vacated
Following his conviction, Ciavarella appealed multiple times. While most of the appeals were turned down, he was able to get himself a count dropped in 2013. Also in 2018, a federal judge vacated three among the charges made on the former judge. The charges dropped include racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, and money laundering. Even though some of the charges were dropped, his sentence was not reduced.
9. Ciavarella Denied Pension Benefits And Was Disbarred
In 2019, 8 years after he got convicted, Ciavarella was disbarred by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for his role in the Kids For Cash Scandal.
It seems he did not only lose his freedom in relation to his crime but also lost a lot of things including his pension benefits. It was in 2009 subsequent to his resignation that Ciavarella applied for his pension benefits, but was denied by the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) stating that his crime and sentencing made him ineligible. In the same vein, the SERS denied him the $234,000 he contributed to the retirement system for reason being that the state Department of Public Welfare claimed he and Conahan are liable for $4.3 million in alleged overpayments it made to two juvenile detention centres.
10. His Daughter Works Towards Helping Troubled Youths
Among the 3 children of Ciavarella, his daughter Lauren Ciavarella Stahl, a lawyer works towards helping distressed youths. Some of them include those affected by the role of her father as a judge. In a documentary about the Kids For Cash Scandal, it was revealed that among the thousands of kids sent to juvenile centres by Ciavarella, a number of them have not found their footings in the society as some of the harsh sentencing had different impacts in them.
In addition, Stahl works with Hillary Transue, a former juvenile who was sentenced to a juvenile camp by Ciavarella for building a MySpace page that ridiculed her assistant principal in order to help youths facing problems, especially as a result of their sentencing by Ciavarella.