The LuLac Edition #1479, Feb. 18th, 2011
The Mark Ciavarella trial ended on Friday afternoon around 3:15 PM. But the drama and the debate over the verdict was just beginning. As the counts were added up, debate began among the media and courtroom observers. Like a political primary, the lawyers almost became spin masters putting the best possible face on their efforts.
At around 3:40 Defense Attorney stood with Mark Ciavarella. Ciavarella reiterated what he had said all along, that he "never took a dime to send a kid anywhere," and that the verdict proved it. This was an important thing to Ciavarella. I believe it is the reason he went to trial. On the night the indictments were handed down in January of 2009, a prominent Attorney who was guesting with me on WYOU TV said that Ciavarella would never plea to that. That night, the attorney predicted a jury trial, at least for Ciavarella. To a certain extent, Ciavarella believed that Juvenile Justice needed to meted out with a stern hand. He was given Carte Blanche by school authorities that had a zero tolerance policy. He went to schools admonishing kids that the next place they’d see him if they were out of line would be in court and it wouldn’t be pretty.
Ciavarella's attorney Al Flora fed the flames saying "We're amazed the jury rejected 95 percent of the government's case."
"He never took a kickback," Flora said, "there was never a bribe, this was not a cash for kids scandal."
That was way too much for one woman standing next to Ciavarella screamed "this was not a cash for kids scandal? My kid's not here anymore." She alleged her son's death stemmed from his sentencing by Ciavarella.
The woman, Sandy Fonzo of Wilkes-Barre was pushed away from Ciavarella by security after she jabbed at him. She had booked to the courthouse after hearing a verdict came in so that she could see him taken away in handcuffs. She was incensed that he was allowed to remain free pending sentencing.
Fonzo's son, Edward Kenzakoski, had been jailed by Ciavarella when he was 17 for a minor infraction. He was never the same after he was released, becoming bitter, angry and plagued by depression. That depression she said led him to commit suicide by shooting himself in the heart. The woman was outraged by Ciavarella’s smirk and the fact that he claimed no recollection of her.
Ciavarella and his party then beat a hasty retreat to go home.
Meanwhile in room 207 of the Federal Courthouse, the Prosecution team were holding a press conference. A female federal employee complimented an agent about his tie which I thought was particularly ugly. But I digress. One government official said to another that Ciavarella got better than the kids he csarted off to jail right after their convictions. The prosecution then patted each other on the back and in particular lauded the team effort of the Prosecution. That should have gotten more than a compliment. These prosecutors should have received a citation because of the precision and unity of purpose they displayed in their pursuit of a conviction.
Asked about Ciavarella's claim of a victory because he was not convicted of extortion or accepting bribes in exchange for sending children to a private facility, Smith said "If a man thinks a racketeering conviction is a victory," what does he consider a defeat? "We're very sympathetic to the pain of the community that was caused here," Smith said, "But federal judicial courts" are not the place to resolve those complaints.
In what I thought was a bombshell, Prosecutors revealed that the investigation stemmed from the conviction and jailing of reputed mobster Bill D’Elia. It was said that the investigation into the Judge’s misdeeds flowed from the D’Elia probe.
U.S. Assistant Attorney Gordon Zubrod noted that the indictment alleged the tenure of MIchael Conahan and Ciavarella "was a criminal enterprise," stressing the "was."
After that, the media packed up their bags and the Prosecution returned to their quarters in the federal building. TV teams (including WYLN TV 35) had impromptu meetings on the street trying to figure out how we all were going to present all of this information. Newspaper reporters pounded out their stories on laptops. To be sure for us covering this event, we have no time to reflect on the events of the day. We are in the processing mode. The reflection of what went on today are in the homes of convicted felon Mark Ciavarella and Sandy Fonzo, the parent who accosted the Judge on the steps of the Courthouse. No matter how much lawyers of both sides tried to spin this, this was a no win for those two households.