Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pennsylvania Judges Accused of Jailing Kids for Cash, Indiana Judges Jailing Kids for Sex

WILKES-BARRE, Pa - In what many see as a shocking aberration, two Pennsylvania judges are accused of judicial corruption by taking millions of dollars in kickbacks for abusing children. The judges, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan are alleged to have taken $2.6 million in payoffs to fill two juvenile detention centers, run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC, with area children.

The judges were charged on January 26 and removed from the bench by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court shortly afterward. Many juveniles were made to appear without lawyers, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1967 ruling that children have a constitutional right to counsel, during hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses.

“I’ve never encountered, and I don’t think that we will in our lifetimes, a case where literally thousands of kids’ lives were just tossed aside in order for a couple of judges to make some money,” said Marsha Levick, an attorney with the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which is representing hundreds of youths sentenced in Wilkes-Barre.

Among the offenders was a teenager who was locked up for months for writing a prank note. Many of the incarcerated children had never been in trouble before. Some were imprisoned even after probation officers recommended against it. Now it is the judges who will be imprisoned. Pursuant to a plea agreement entered into on January 13, both judges could serve 87 months in federal prison and will resign from the bench and bar. Lawyers for both men declined to comment.

According to MSNBC, Ciavarella, 58, who presided over Luzerne County’s juvenile court for 12 years, acknowledged last week in a letter to his former colleagues, “I have disgraced my judgeship. My actions have destroyed everything I worked to accomplish and I have only myself to blame.”

Many Pennsylvania counties contract with privately run juvenile detention centers, paying them either a fixed overall fee or a certain amount per youth, per day. In Luzerne County, prosecutors say, Conahan shut down the county-run juvenile prison in 2002 and helped the two companies secure rich contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, at least some of that dependent on how many juveniles were locked up.

For years, youth advocacy groups complained that Ciavarella was ridiculously harsh and ran roughshod over youngsters’ constitutional rights. Ciavarella sent a quarter of his juvenile defendants to detention centers from 2002 to 2006, compared with a statewide rate of 10 percent.

I have long complained that the proliferation of privately run prisons would be subject to possible corruption in incarceration for kickback schemes. It now appears that what was obvious from the outset of creating for-profit incarcerations, that those who held the keys to filling those privately run facilities with taxpayer funded customers would be involved in a compensation plan.

In 2004 I started an investigation of cash payoffs to judges in Boone County Indiana to fix cases. A few months later I was falsely accused of a crime and jailed in a scheme involving the Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer and Boone County Juvenile Court Judge Steve David. I had flyers distributed throughout the county inviting the public to come see the corruption involving Meyer and David exposed at my trial. Upon receiving one on August 17, 2005, according to courthouse personnel, David became enraged and canceled my trial.

Two days later the building where some of the evidence of corruption was held, which was located on the courthouse square, was burnt to the ground in an arson fire. Though I repeatedly sought to have a jury trial in which I could present the evidence of corruption David would not allow it. Multiple courthouse players who had been subpoenaed to testify sought to have their subpoenas quashed stating that their testimony would "embarrass" them. Judge David eventually denied my final plea, a motion to reinstate the felony charge against me, keeping he and his co-conspirators from being exposed during the defense portion of a criminal trial.

Judge David's connection to sending juveniles to a privately run detention facility was captured on some of the audio tapes kept in the building that was burnt to the ground. Fortunately they were recovered by someone who crossed a police line and preserved them before the building was razed.

The tapes reveal former Western Boone High School Assistant Principal Jerry Taylor discussing a scheme in which he has Judge David send students to a lock-up facility in Muncie, Indiana, the Henry County Youth Center [HCYC], for "special punishment". Taylor, who was secretly recorded by an associate of mine, also admitted to a sexual battery and lustfully discussed coaching girls on the high school tennis team.

Prosecutor Meyer, with the tapes in his possession and a signed complaint from the victim, refused to charge Taylor. Taylor abruptly resigned in May 2005 and left the county. Five weeks after the August 2005 arson fire Judge David issued a No Contact Order against a Western Boone High School female student, who lived in Thorntown and was age 15 at the time, barring her from providing any information to me. She had alleged to me after her detention at the Boone County Jail that she had been molested.

When I filed a public records request seeking access to the records related to the September 2005 detention of the girl at the Boone County Jail I found myself under attack by Judge David and the Prosecutor's Office. Juvenile prosecutor Bruce Petit asked David to order that I could not use the Indiana Access to Public Records Act. I then filed a lawsuit to compel disclosure of the records. Judge David dismissed the suit and ordered me to pay $4,000 which I have never done. In February 2006 Judge David, Todd Meyer and Donna Hankins, a probation officer whose son is the Town Marshal where I live, Thorntown, schemed to have me falsely charged with a crime and jailed again.

In September 2007, the day before I was to have a hearing in his court, Judge David left Boone County and has not returned. He was supposedly going to be gone less than a year to work as a JAG for the Guantanamo detainees. He now works in private practice in Washington, D.C.

Boone Superior Court II Judge Rebecca McClure has now continued the scheme. In September 2006 I was accused of violating a Thorntown ordinance prohibiting unapproved political signs. This was after I placed a sign in the window of my home that asked people to guess who was involved in a child molestation ring. Town Council President Gary Jones demanded that the sign be removed. His son, Caleb, currently faces a battery charge for cutting his mother with a knife during a fit of rage after she would not let him shower with one of his younger sisters.

In a public access moment of deja vu Judge McClure, in violation of Indiana law, had ordered me not to use Indiana Access to Public Records Act when I was seeking records of complaints made against the officer who had taken the young girl to the Boone County Jail. Numerous women had publicly declared that he had stalked or observed them. He was previously ordered by the Town Council to stay away from the home of my female neighbor. McClure has also ordered my to pay a hefty fine for seeking public disclosure of child molesters. This time amounting to about $25,000.

A worker at the Indiana United Methodists Children's Home in Lebanon, Indiana, where the Thorntown girl was once held, was convicted last year of sexual misconduct for having a sexual relationship with a girl, age 15, there. I had also received complaints back to 2006 that there were molestations occurring there. McClure, who lives just a few blocks from IUMCH, was never directly implicated in the molestations. However, her insistence that this issue may not be raised publicly and her attempts to silence those who want it investigated clearly reveals that she must be involved.

No comments: