Friday, September 23, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1768, Septemberr 23rd, 2011




7:29AM I arrive at the Federal Courthouse and have a discussion with Clark Van Order, photographer from the Times Leader. We both agree that this sentencing will not be as dramatic as the Ciavarella affair in August.
7:33AM Entering the building, I see veteran trial observer Artie Ravitz. I first met Ravitz while covering the Shenandoah police trial. Artie says the court action in his hometown of Easton is tame compared to our area.
7:35AM As I go through the security line, a federal Marshall comes in singing dowop songs. Naturally I tell him the year, record label, and group of the song he is singing. We get into a prolonged discussion of that music genre.
7:55AM Sitting in the lobby outside of Courtroom #1, I see the Marshall’s arranging the security checkpoint.
7:59AM Members of the media begin arriving. Steve Corbett from WILK, Jennifer Learnes Andes of the Times Leader and a few others. Artie Ravitz and I end our discussion of the merits of a consumption tax to bring down the deficit.
8:02AM Corbett pulls a card from his jacket pocket and asks me if I know who it is. Before I can say “I don’t:, he tells me I don’t know. He tells me it is Jesus Malverdi, the Hispanic Robin Hood. He is sometimes known as the "generous bandit", "angel of the poor", or the "narco-saint", is a folklore hero in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Not recognized as a Saint by the Church, his name is nonetheless linked to justice. Corbett puts the card back in his pocket and says he hopes he sees Justice today.
8:06AM Members of the Conahan party start to arrive. There are hugs and embraces all around. There are siblings, in laws, cousins, nephews and nieces. Most are dressed in black. Mourning black. They all look sad and resigned. All of them are very cordial.
8:12AM I know that Sandy Fonzo said she’d be at the sentencing. I also look for parents and victims of the Kids for Cash scheme. I see one of those people around as I scan the perimeter.
8:20AM Corbett is approached by an individual who identifies himself as a listener. The talk show host asks him why he is here today. The man says to support Mike Conahan in his hour of need. The man says he hopes Conahan can get a fair shake. Corbett responds that he (Conahan) got more than his fair shake when he was not charged as an unindicted co conspirator in a drug deal right before he took the bench in the early 90s. The man repeats he just hopes the former Judge gets a fair shake.
8:29AM The Federal Marshall begins to let people walk through the security check point. It is earlier than we are told. The time was originally set for 8:45AM.
8:30AM The same Federal Marshall gets a page saying no one is to be let in until 8
8:31AM Judge Kosik over rules that order and we are allowed in the courtroom.
8:32AM The Conahan contingent of supporters come in and sit in the first two rows of the courtroom. Again, the mood is somber, funereal. Men and women dressed in black. Unlike the Ciavarella’s supporters wardrobes, these are devoid of colors. The mood, the dress are somewhat like the skies overhead, black.
8:34AM Judge Kosik takes a look at the scene. Wearing khakis and navy blue outerwear, he consults with a few court officials.
8:39AM Former Judge Conahan arrives with his wife Barbara. She is referred to as Barbie. He is wearing an olive suit, she has on a teal top with a grey skirt. It is the only hint of color in their contingent. Conahan goes down the front line of people seated in the first row. He speaks to every person embracing, shaking hands.
8:41AM Arte Ravtiz comes over to my seat and says, “Imagine if you are a brother or sister of this guy, how do you say goodbye when you know you won’t see them in 15 years? Artie will be off by 2 and ½ years.
8:44AM A gentleman who is a frequent caller to WILK Radio and helps them out occasionally sits down next to me and tells me his father knows me very well. I told him his father and I were bag boys at the old Detato’s Supermarket in Pittston.
8:46AM Just like in the Ciavarella trial, members of the media wonder why they can’t sit in the Jury Box. The seats are taken up by federal employees but it is not packed like the Ciaverella sentencing.
8:50AM Conahan consults with his attorney Phil Gelso. It dawns on me that we went to the same grade school together. Note to self: I should have studied as hard as he did.
8:54AM A witness in the Ciavarella trial sits in the second row. She is Gina Carreli former Hazleton Mayor Mike Marsicano’s ex girl friend. In her testimony for the defense she was combative, but adamant that Bob Powell was the bad guy in all of this mess. I have a fleeting thought that perhaps “the mastermind” Mike Conahan had a hand in helping Ciavarella’s defense. Why would she be here today but I never got the opportunity to track her down and ask her.
9:06AM Former Judge Anne Lokuta comes into the courtroom and takes a seat.
9:15AM Judge Kosik again reappears and looks over the scene in his courtroom.
9:17AM Writer Bill Ecenbarger asks the assembled media how we made out with the flood.
9:24AM The Prosecution team comes in. Gordon Zurbis has the bow tie on. The Government shakes hands with the Defense team. Mike Conahan sits in his chair and looks straight ahead.
9:28AM Kosik enters the courtroom. He is early. The proceedings begin.
9:30AM After procedural matters are discussed, Conahan’s attorney Phil Gelso makes the following remarks. Gelso spoke of the ex-judge's decision to see a psychiatrist after being first charged in 2009. He noted Conahan had used alcohol heavily. He recounted a childhood during which Conahan would be beaten mercilessly for forgetting to stoke the furnace, and noted Conahan had served as a surrogate father for his nieces and nephews.
Unlike former Judge Mark Ciavarella, who, along with Conahan, was charged with accepting`millions for actions on the bench, Conahan did not deny wrongdoing, and did not speak out against the charges in public, Gelso said. Conahan believed his silence would "help the healing process."
9:39AM Conahan speaks on his own behalf. . "I was the president judge, I owed you better.
"I lost my way," he said, adding that "any good I did will be overshadowed by my criminal actions."
Conahan said he "worked long and hard to try to understand" his actions. and that he "will work the rest of my life to atone."
Conahan apologizes to his family, relatives, the legal profession as well as the probation office. He repeats, “the system was not corrupt, I was”.
9:47AM The Prosecution tells the Court that even though Conahan plead guilty and what he did was wrong, he spared the community the anger and drama of a full blown trial. This was in stark contrast to the Ciavarella trial.
9:54AM Judge Edwin Kosik begins the reading of the sentence.
9:56AM Just when the Judge is starting to get to the heart of the matter, regarding the pre sentencing report where Conahan’s sister’s referred to the gray area of morality, a noise from the sound system emits a high pitched squeal that is uncomfortable for the assembled crowd.
9:57AM A staffer fixes the sound system and the Judge continues.
9:58AM “It’s the gray area, in my mind, that led the defendant to his fate today,” U.S. District Judge Edwin M. Kosik said before revealing his sentence
10AM: Kosik pronounces sentencing of 210 months. Like the Cavarella case, no one has a calculator in the media. We figure it to be 17 and a half years. Kosik reads the fines, the terms and conditions.
10:03AM The room is starting to clear by order of the Marshalls. There are people standing in the back.
10:04AM Conahan consults with his attorney. His wife looks straight ahead.
10:06AM Artie Ravitxz and I briefly trace the time line of this corruption case. He asks me who owns the Juvenile Detention Center and who was Steve Flood. I tell him that Flood was the county Controller who questioned the purchase and monies of the Juvenile Detention Center. We promise to keep in touch.
10:07AM I make my way out of the Courtroom ever mindful of the fact that the people in the WYLN Control Room are expecting my call. I am stopped by former Judge Anne Lokuta who tells me she is now in private practice. Lokuta tells me that justice was served well today. She then pulls out something from her blazer pocket. “Look” she says, “it’s a prayer card from Steve Flood’s viewing”. I nod and leave to get to my assignment.


At 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yonk, I think you did a very good job with your report but there is one thing that stands out and I can't let it get past. Ciavarella did not proclaim in innocence. He did not say he did not do wrong. Mark Ciavarella refused to allow statements that he sold kids for cash and he felt so strongly about it that he was willing to jeopardize his own well being. He did not sell kids for cash, they took money for making the business possible. Research the number of kids he sentenced to treatment (not terms in jail) and you will se that he never changed his judicial policies from the first day he took charge of the juvenile court to the very last. If it was all about kids for cash, there would have been a large increase after the detention center was in full swing. It is worth nothing that the detention center is filled to capacity and Luzerne county does not have one child there. Of course the current judges are so gun shy that they are allowing the kids to getaway with anything they do so as not to suffer criticism.

At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry but I just can't stand to read about how angelic Steve Flood was in performing his duties as county Controller. Yes he did blow the whistle on the Detention center and I do applaud him for that. However, when he and Urban took over the Pension Board majority with the swing of County Treasurer Mike Morreale, they destroyed the fiscal foundation of the county pension system. They made a deal that caused all of the Pension assets to be sold and then repurchased with commission going both ways. They sold when the market was down and repurchased as the market moved up. The problem was that by selling at the low point, they had less cash to re-purchase the rising stocks so the net result was they didn't make near the profit they would have if they had not sold the stocks. He made a deal with the Philly law firm and gave millions in fees. He also finally admitted that he was using pension funds to pay his own legal fees after stating several times in the media that he was footing his own legal bills. He got caught and came clean. Combine his personal legal fees paid by the pension fund, the cost of the law suits that returned nothing to the fund and then add in the millions paid to the Philly law firm and you have not a savior but rather a one man financial wrecking machine with Steve Urban as his cohort. Nether of these two guys should ever receive a public thank you, they cost us taxpayers a fortune. The truth is the best defense and everything I've stated is verifiable.


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