The LuLac Edition #1466, Feb. 9th. 2011
Three Bobs testified today in the corruption trial of former Judge Mark Ciavarella. First off developer Robert Mericle returned to the stand at 9:15AM after a delay. (A juror from Tremont got stuck in an accident on route 81 in the morning). Mericle made some incredible observations in his testimony:
Mericile said he regarded Ciavarella as a mentor, had the former Judge as his Attorney since the mid 80s and regularly gave gifts to Ciavarella starting with Cabbage Patch Kids in the mid 80s. He testified he gave Ciavarella, then his lawyer money and gift certificates for travel. Mericle then continued to give the Judge cash gifts of up to $5,000.00 wrapped in travel magazines. Mericle said he didn’t want to be the guy who dimed out Ciavarella because he regarded him as a friend. He made the statement in response to a prosecution question about why he lied to a grand jury.
Mericle testified about a meeting with Mark Ciavarella in November 2007. He said Ciavarella wrote a note asking if he was wired and asked Mercile to indicate either he was or wasn’t by circling yes or no on a paper. Mericle answered no. Ciavarella said to Mericle that the payments from Mercle to him could be constituted as a gift and would get him a slap on the wqrist. But if it came out that the money came from Powell then Mericle, then he (the Judge) could go to jail). He told Mericle to cooperate with the FBI but also hinted that Mericle should go back to his office and alter the finder fee documents to say the money was paid to Ciavarella, not Robert Powell.
Mericle said Ciavarella then told him that Pinnacle was owned 'By Cindy and Barb" referring t his wife and Conahan's wife respectively. Mericle said he thought it was owned by Powell but Ciavarella corrected him.
Mericle also testified that the agreement to pay a finder;s fee to Mark Ciavarella was put into writing with Robert Powell, and the payment was made to Powell at Ciavarella's request.
Mericle said he approached Ciavarella and offered the fee to him because "if anyone deserves it, you do," but Ciavarella told him to give the money to Powell and that "he'd take care of it."
Apparently. Mericle seemed stoic on the stand and reiterated a number of times that he paid Ciavarella finder’s fee, not a bribe or kickback.
Mericle was succeeded by Attorney Robert Matta who was President of a bank that Conahan did business with. He was dismissed from his job due to the corruption probe and is currently in litigation to get it back.
Matta, handled some of the payments to Ciavarella and Conahan. Once Matta received $610,000 as was asked to hold it for about a week. He received $10,000 for doing this. When the Prosecution asked him to name the term for this, the attorney was reluctant. The Prosecutor asked would you agree that the term might be “money laundering?” He replied yes.
The most sensational testimony of the day came from Powell who unabashedly said that there were bribes to Conahan and Ciavarella. Powell told of a meeting with Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella late in 2003 during which Ciavarella held up a piece of paper he claimed showed how profitable PA Child Care was and said "I know what's going on there, I know what's happening, and I want a part of it."
Powell testified that he told Ciavarella and Conahan that the figures were deceptive because the business was a start up. He also said counties were slow to pay.
Powell detailed payments from $25,000 to $75,000 in 2004 for rental of a boat slip from Conahan and Ciavarella. The problem was the Judges didn’t own any boats or slips. he His rental cost was $1,900 a month, Powell claimed that the items he was making up in the memo line of his checks were “nonsensical”.
Because of a scheduling conflict, the trial was going to end at 3PM and a Prosecutor asked for a break at 2:40PM. Judge Edwin Kosik admonished him saying, “I’ll do my job, you do yours”. Kosik adjourned a few minutes later as Powell was talking about he he fled to Costa Rico to escape the demands of the Judges. Powell at one point joked with the Judges asking how they could blow through a million bucks so fast.
Testimony resumes Thursday morning.
LuLac isr eporting on the trial for WYLN TV 35's Late Edition.