The LuLac Edition #1717, August 13th, 2011
PHOTO INDEX: SCALES OF JUDSTICE.
JUROR: IT WAS EXCESSIVE
The Times Leader's Law and Order reporter Terrie Morgan Besecker caught up with a juror in the February trial of Mark Ciavarella. She sauys the sentencing was "excessive" and that Michael Conahan was the ring leader. Here is the reporter's story and the comments associated with it.
One of the jurors in Mark Ciavarella’s corruption trial said she thinks the 28-year prison sentence imposed upon him was excessive given the charges for which he was convicted. Patricia Sinco, a juror in the Ciavarella trial, says she believes the 28 year sentence given to the former judge was excessive.
Patricia Sinco, 64, said she’s disturbed by the fact U.S. District Judge Edwin Kosik was permitted to consider evidence that Ciavarella jailed juveniles for cash when that claim was never presented at the trial.
“We were not jurors on a ‘kids for cash’ case,” Sinco said. “That was not what our trial was about.”
Ciavarella, 61, was found guilty in February of 12 charges for accepting nearly $1 million from developer Robert Mericle, who built the PA and Western PA Childcare juvenile detention centers. He was acquitted of 27 other charges relating to his alleged extortion of money from the centers’ one-time co-owner, Robert Powell.
Despite Ciavarella’s acquittal on the Powell charges, Kosik was permitted to consider the alleged extortion as “other relevant conduct” in determining Ciavarella’s sentence.
The judge was also permitted to consider reports by two panels that investigated Ciavarella’s handling of juvenile court and allegations that the money he accepted was a kickback for jailing juveniles at Powell’s centers.
Sinco questioned why that that information was permitted to be considered.
“That’s not what we found him guilty of. Why was he being sentenced for something he was found not guilty?” Sinco said. “I guess the law says it’s legal to bring that in. They certainly would not bring it in if it were not legal.”
Sinco said jurors agreed that the money Mericle paid Ciavarella was a legal finder’s fee to reward Ciavarella for recommending Mericle as the builder. It was illegal for Ciavarella to take the money, however, because he was the county’s juvenile judge.
They flatly rejected Powell’s testimony that he was extorted, however.
“We did not believe anything Mr. Powell said,” she said.
Sinco said most of the jurors believed that Conahan was the main player in the case and that Ciavarella got “caught up” in the scheme.
“Most of us felt Ciavarella was guilty by association. Not that he was completely clean,” she said. “We didn’t believe Ciavarella knew the depth of what was going on.”
She said the panel found him guilty of more charges than it otherwise would have based on its belief he had conspired with Conahan the disguise the source of the Mericle money.
“The judge told us, once we found them guilty of conspiring together, anything that judge Conahan did, judge Ciavarella was guilty of as well because of the conspiracy,” she said. “If it were not for that, many things we would not have found him guilty of.”
Sinco said she will be interested to see what type of sentences are handed down against Conahan, who pleaded guilty last year to one count of racketeering conspiracy, as well as Mericle and Powell, who also entered pleas to charges related to the case.
She said believes Conahan should get the stiffest sentence of all the defendants. “I would certainly think he would get significantly more. I think he was the king pin who moved the chess pieces around,” she said.
This juror raises a profound question. Many have said right from the start, that the term “cash for kids”, (which would follow Mark Ciavarella throughout the prosecution and trial and ultimately be the basis of his sentencing), was manufactured by the media, who were searching for sensationalism.
While it was unethical for Judge Ciavarella to accept any form of compensation for the construction of the facility, he did NOT accept a “payment per person” for sending juvenile offenders to it, which was the basic premise behind the alleged “cash for kids” scheme. He SHOULD serve time for tax evasion, for NOT reporting this as income.
However, since the jury never heard about the alleged “cash for kids” issue, and did NOT convict Ciavarella on that issue as a charge, then how could it become part of the sentencing criteria? The answer to that lies within the fact that the feds could NOT put that charge together, but an overwhelming number of those who had personal axes to grind with Ciavarella believed that was what took place. Kozik satisfied those individuals by literally “forcing a legal square peg into a round hole”.
While others have criticized Mark Ciavarella for holding his ground by consistently denying “cash for kids” up until his sentencing date, the man was willing to hold on to his principles and risk a stiffer punishment, than agree to something he just didn’t do. This is only one of the people associated with the trial who will now come forth and ask why?
I Personally take no solace in the fact mark ciavarella may suffer and even die in prison... concurrently, would agree the 28 years be reduced to 10 years of even the original 7.25 years providing that his wife, Cindy, and their 3 grown children (Lauren, Nicole, Marco) - all with legal backgrounds, disclose where all Scooch's ill-gotten gains are located over the past decade or so... if they won't do it for the Children, County, Commonwealth, Country... at least do it for your dad's freedom.. you can all earn your own money...
He was sentenced within the guidelines for what the jury found him guilty of, it's his arrogance that made it on the higher side.
Bravo for a jury member who is asking a profound question. We do not convict people of crimes they did NOT commit simply because (a) the media created a frenzy that simply did not exist and, (b) allow that frenzy “cash for kids” to leak into the sentencing structure. The jury did NOT even hear or know about the alleged “cash for kids” and it was NOT even included in the convictions. YES the judge was guilty of using bad judgment about taking the finders fee and of TAX evasion, and should spend the appropriate time in jail. But media hype and public opinion, forced Judge Kozik to simply “force a round peg into a square hole”. While others criticize Ciavarella for sticking to his guns and denying the charge, I commend him for putting his principles above obtaining a lesser punishment.
I'm glad to see someone is able to tell the truth. I'm sure Mr. Ciavarella is guilty of many things. But the ranting parents need to take some responsibility for their kids too! They were not all innocent and the parents are partly and in some cases wholly responsible for their kids actions.
Excellent, informative, well written article! This article
clearly outlines the major flaws with both the prosecution and handling of this
case. No one should believe that any of these problems were created by accident
or mistake. The US Attorney in charge and the Judge in this case are two of the
most experienced and seasoned veterans anyone could ever hope for. Conscious
decisions were made every step of the way. I recently told a very wise man who mistakenly still believes in the system to watch what actually happens as an end result. I told him to focus on the final destination because everything else is just
fluff for public consumption. I just e-mailed my friend and told him that the “Fat
Lady” isn’t even in the building yet. Sign me: Larry Hohol
She is entitled to her opinion of course, but her duty was to determine 'guilty' or 'not guilty'. The judge determines punishment, and just as people disagree with the jury's decision on the other charges against Civarella, she can disagree with the judge, but it doesn't mean anything, the jury has made their decision on the charges and the judge has made his. .....It can only change on appeal
Who cares what she thinks? Any one who's too dumb to not get out of jury duty is too dumb to be on a jury.
Wow, was this a good article. Agree or disagree with Ms. Sinco, you have to admire her frankness. The overwhelming amount of coverage the sentencing got raised a question for me (as someone also over 50): If a much younger man or woman had held Mr. Ciavarella's position, and was as innocent of criminal intent in regard to the treatment of juveniles as Ciavarella claims/claimed to be--but was associated with this scandal's same slothful, indifferent, or corrupt cast of characters--would such a judge's handling of the juveniles have been totally different? The situation called for Superman or Superwoman. We should all be Supermen and Superwomen. How one goes about being a superhero in the morass of Luzerne County's judicial and social service system, though, without ultimately getting committed for psychiatric observation: that's the hard part.
Hey lady, trying to help Markie get a mistrial??? It's NOT going to happen.