Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1536, April 6th, 2011




The Times Leader's Mark Guydish had a very good column last week about corruption in the county. He focused in on the business people who dimed out the politicos. It's a good piece and we thought it worthy of a repeat: The old saying runs something like this: If you do the crime, be ready to serve the time. In light of some of the punishment meted out during this, Our Age of Endless Corruption, the adage needs an asterisk and a footnote, something like: If you do the crime, be ready to serve the time.* *Or be sure that, during the commission of the crime, you can gather enough dirt on other crooks to dime them out in exchange for a reduced sentence. The two most recent examples: Harry “Jersey Boy” Cardoni and Robert “The Rat” Kulick. Cardoni is the shyster lawyer who got former Luzerne County Judge Michael Toole to fix an insurance arbitration case. In exchange, Toole got repeated free use of a New Jersey beach house Cardoni owns as a rental property. Kulick is a crooked businessman convicted of tax evasion years ago who more recently faced charges of brandishing a firearm – forbidden under his tax evasion conviction. He finked on case-fixing done by former county judges Michael “Cocky” Conahan and Mark “Shameless” Ciavarella, going so far as to tie Conahan to reputed mob boss Billy D’Elia. So far, Cardoni’s biggest punishment has been the suspension of his license to practice law. While feds haven’t promised he won’t face charges, Cardoni said under oath he’s hoping to avoid that problem through his testimony against Toole. Kulick, on the other hand, was sentenced to 37 months on the firearm charge, but appealed and got the case sent back for re-sentencing. He had served 17 months before the re-sentencing took place yesterday. At that hearing, the judge changed the prison term to “time served.” So Kulick did the crime and served the time, but he served 20 months less than originally ordered. What are we telling business people? There are those who think this is outright unjust. A crook is a crook, after all, and honest people tend to get more satisfaction from the judicial system when all crooks are punished equally. But we all know what’s going on. As I’ve said here previously, feds seem to be swapping lighter sentences for a few crooks in exchange for catching a lot more crooks. As I’ve also pointed out before, federal sentencing guidelines recommend stiffer sentences for public officials than for private individuals. The theory is simple and easy to accept. Private business people who offer bribes or kickbacks are schmucks without scruples who betray the people they deal with; public officials who take bribes or kickbacks are schmucks without scruples who betray all of us. If the choice is between sending Cardoni to jail or getting Toole off the bench and in prison, that logic says we should give Cardoni a break in order to nail Toole. Fair enough, I guess. And if shortening Kulick’s jail time nets us more charges against more public officials, maybe that’s for the best, too. But after so many arrests of public officials who took bribes, and so little jail time (so far) for the private business people who paid them, one wonders if the message is being skewed. Are we telling all business people it doesn’t pay to pay off politicians? Or are we telling them to be sure they have enough evidence to sink the politicians in case they get caught.
Mark Guydish covers education for the Times Leader. His columns appear on the Editorial Page.


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