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Pa. Judge Gets 28 Years in “Kids-for-Cash” Scandal

Judge Ciavarella

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Common Pleas Judge Mark A. Ciaverella of Luzerne Co., Pa., in one of the more shameful displays of judicial digression, got lucrative kickbacks from private juvenile detention centers after sending scores of children there, some who should have not been incarcerated.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Edwin M. Kosik II in Scranton, Pa., sentenced Ciaverella to 28 years in prison in the “kids-for-cash” scandal and ordered him to pay about $1.2 million in restitution. He also ordered him off to prison immediately.

Ciavarella and his co-defendant, Judge Michael Conahan, were charged in the scandal in 2009. They ended up entering a guilty plea, but Judge Kosik rejected it because the defendants did not appear to accept responsibility for their conduct. Ciavarella’s  sentence on Thursday was about four times greater than what he would have gotten under his plea.

As a result of the scandal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed roughly 5,000 convictions Ciavarella issued between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.

Authorities alleged that Ciavarella and fellow judge Michael Conahan took more than $2 million in bribes from the builder of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention centers. They also extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the facilities’ co-owner.

Authorities said Ciavarella sent children to the private lockups, some as young as 10, and many of them first-time offenders convicted of petty theft and other minor crimes.

In February, after an 11 day trial in Scranton, a federal jury found Ciavarella guilty on 12 of 39 counts: racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, four counts of honest services mail fraud, and four counts of filing false income tax returns. The jury also found that Ciavarella should forfeit $997,600, the sum he received from Robert Mericle, the developer who built the juvenile detention facilities.

Ciavarella testified at trial, claiming that the payments he received from Mericle were “finders fees” or “honest money” with no connection to Ciavarella’s actions as a judge, and denied that he received payment from Robert Powell, owner of the facilities.

The evidence established that Judge Conahan closed the Luzerne County Juvenile Detention Facility when he was chief judge and helped arrange the financing for the private facilities; that Ciavarella, as juvenile court judge, sent juveniles to those facilities; that both men obstructed efforts to question the county’s use of the facilities and their financial relationships with Mericle and Powell; and both judges used bank accounts, straw parties and real estate vacation property to hide and launder payments received from Mericle and Powell.

Mericle and Powell have pleaded guilty pursuant to plea agreements and are awaiting sentencing. Conahan pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy in April 2010. He did not testify at trial and has not been sentenced.

Ciavarella and Conahan resigned from the bench in 2009.

Ex-FBI Agent Mike Mason Expresses Concern About Sabotage in Verizon Strike

Mike Mason/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Ex-FBI official Mike Mason, who heads up security at Verizon, is voicing concern about the strike by company workers on the east coast that has resulted in the sabotage at some facilities including a police department and hospital.

“I consider that an unpatriotic act,” Mason, a former executive assistant director of the criminal division  at the FBI, told the Associated Press. “These cuts aren’t just affecting a faceless, monolithic company.”

The AP reports that Verizon has discovered 90 acts of sabotage since the strike began last week involving 45,000 landline employees from Massachusetts to D.C.  The FBI is involved in the investigating the matter.

An FBI spokesman said the agency is involved in the probe.

“Because critical infrastructure has been affected, namely the telecommunications of both a hospital and a police department, the FBI is looking into this matter from a security standpoint as part of our security efforts leading up to the 9-11 anniversary,” Special Agent Bryan Travers said in an email, according to AP.

Candice Johnson, a union spokeswoman from the Communications Workers of America, said:

“CWA does not condone illegal action of any kind, and instructs its members to conduct all strike activities in accordance with labor law.”

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Feds Won’t Charge Son of Late Sen. Ted Stevens

Sen. Ben Stevens

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Stevens family has had its share of legal luck.

The latest: The Anchorage Daily News reports that ex-Alaska state Senate President Ben Stevens, son of the late Sen. Ted Stevens, won’t be prosecuted in what the paper described as  a “rapidly fading Alaska political corruption investigation.”

The paper reported that family friends of Stevens said he recently received a letter from fed prosecutors saying he won’t face charges. The paper reported that a “government source” confirmed that the letter had been sent.

The paper reported that the FBI raided Steven’s office in 2006 along with five other state lawmakers. Four were convicted.

Steven’s father, the late Sen. Ted Stevens, was convicted of public corruption charges in 2008. However, a fed judge, at the request of the Justice Department, vacated the conviction because of prosecutorial misconduct. Prosecutors failed to turn over materials to the defense team.

To read the full story click here.

Secret Service Leaves Little to Chance When the Prez Stops in for Lunch

Pres. Obama eats with advisors at another D.C. eatery earlier this month/white house photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

When you’re President and you just happened to drop by a little lunch spot for a bite to eat, the Secret Service leaves little to chance.

The website TMZ reports that the Secret Service on Wednesday swept through Ted’s Bulletin restaurant on 8th Street SE on Capitol Hill  in D.C. with a K-9 unit  before President Obama stopped in and surprised a group of campaign volunteers.

The website reported that the restaurant was closed to the public.

By the way, the website reported that the President ordered up a plain cheeseburger, fries, and side salad and washed it down with water.

He then picked up the tab for the group and paid for the $200-plus lunch with a credit card.

In the photo above, the President was eating with advisors at the Good Stuff Eatery on Pennsylvania Avenue SE on Capitol Hill  on Aug. 3.

Fla. Completes Ted Bundy DNA Profile for FBI Data Base

Ted Bundy /fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Serial killer Ted Bundy’s DNA profile was uploaded to the FBI’s DNA data base on Friday, opening the way for police investigators around the country to see if Bundy was responsible for any other murders, the New York Times reported.

Bundy, who was executed in Florida in 1989, confessed to 30 murders, but hinted there were more, the Times reported.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement assembled a complete profile of Bundy recently after extracting DNA from a vial that had been stored in the court house for three decades, the Times reported. Up until now, no complete DNA profile had been available.

David Coffman, chief of forensics at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said his department began searching for enough DNA to create a profile after being contacted by the police in Tacoma, Wash., this year, the Times reported.

Authorities in Tacoma are hoping to solve the case of Ann Marie Burr, an 8-year-old girl who disappeared from her house in 1961, Times reported. Bundy was 14 at the time.

Coffman told the Times he receives four or five calls a year from investigators inquiring about Bundy’s DNA in connection with unsolved cases.

Ill. FBI Agent Pleads to Lying About Whereabouts of $43,643

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Where’s the money? That’s what authorities still would like to know.

FBI Agent Jerry Nau, 44, of Peoria, Ill. pleaded guilty Wednesday in Urbana, Ill.  to lying about the whereabouts of $43,643 seized during a drug investigation in November 2008 by a multi-county task force he was part of, according to the Peoria Journal Star. He is currently on unpaid leave.

The paper reported that Nau didn’t admit to taking the money, and said he didn’t know where the money went.

The plea agreement stated that Nau was to bring back the cash from the task force to the FBI evidence vault. After the conviction in the drug case in 2009, FBI agents looked for the money but couldn’t find it.

On June 30, 2010, Nau falsely told his superiors the money was in the task force evidence vault and faxed to the FBI’s Springfield office a receipt showing it was there, the Journal Star reported.

He then lied when he said two officers came with him and saw the cash. He also told Justice Dept. officials that he had brought the money back to the FBI Peoria office, but failed to log it properly, the paper reported. He said he then checked the vault and saw the money was missing.

The paper reported that his agreement says he “panicked” when he didn’t know where the money was and “he simply hoped the money would turn up.” He denied taking any money.

“The United States believes it is very serious when a federal law enforcement officer makes a false statement regarding evidence in a federal criminal case,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney James Warden from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Indiana’s Southern District, according to the paper. The Indiana office handled the prosecution. “When asked to produce it, he failed to do so, was unable to do so and then made false statements about the status of the money.

“Where that money is now, only Mr. Nau and God know and he (Nau) isn’t saying other than he has misplaced it.”

Sentencing is set for Nov. 29 in Peoria. He faces up to five years in prison.

His attorney Jeff Flanagan did not return a call to the Star Journal for comment.