Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Feds: Ciavarella kept money ties secret (Kids for Cash trial)
Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre PA) ^ | 2/12/11 | MATT HUGHES

Posted on 02/12/2011 1:58:07 AM PST by Born Conservative

SCRANTON – Mark Ciavarella never disclosed his financial relationship with attorney Robert Powell or developer Robert Mericle even when the men stood before him in court, witnesses said Friday in fifth day of the former Luzerne County judge’s corruption trial.

Prosecutors have charged Ciavarella with 39 counts of racketeering, bribery, extortion, money laundering, honest services fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion.

Jurors heard testimony from three attorneys who argued cases before Ciavarella that involved either Mericle or Powell during the interval in which prosecutors allege Ciavarella had a financial relationship with the men. All three lawyers said they would have asked Ciavarella to recuse himself from judging the trial had they known of the connection.

“You can’t have a party to the case … paying money to the judge and expect him to be treated fairly,” said attorney Lawrence Durkin, who represented a financial services company sued by Mericle in 2004, adding “A first year law student would know this isn’t right.”

Durkin testified he filed a motion to change the trial’s venue from Luzerne to Lackawanna County Court, as the case concerned a Mericle-owned building in Lackawanna County and the company Durkin represented is based in New York.

“We said your honor, we shouldn’t be here,” Durkin said. “He did not specifically rule on it. He said go ahead with the hearing.”

Stephen Carpentino, who represented the developers of a Pittston Township shopping center being sued by a company owned by Mericle in 2006, said Ciavarella told him off-record outside the judge’s chambers that he knew Mericle, but never mentioned any fiscal ties.

“He said I know generally who Mr. Mericle is,” Carpentino said, “…but I don’t have a relationship with him that would affect my decision one way or another. …He downplayed it. He made it sound like he might just know him from social events.”

Attorney Jeffrey McCarron testified that he handled a 2008 legal malpractice case presided over by Ciavarella that resulted in a $3.4 million award for the plaintiff, who was represented by Powell. The state Superior court later overturned the verdict, ruling that Ciavarella should have recused himself from the matter.

McCarron said he had questioned the judge about his relationship with Powell, reports of which were by then circulating in the media.

“I was concerned that there was a relationship between Mr. Powell and Mark Ciavarella which would influence Mr. Ciavarella in his decision-making,” McCarron said.

McCarron said he asked if there was something about the relationship of Ciavarella and Powell that he should know, angering Ciavarella.

“Did he give you a straight answer on your question,” U.S Attorney William Houser asked.

“Well, he told me there was (no relationship),” McCarron replied.

McCarron went on to allege that Ciavarella allowed Powell to ask leading questions to witnesses, that he allowed Powell to use expert witness testimony but denied his request to call his own expert and that Ciavarella told him off-record, after sending a court reporter away, that “I don’t like your attitude.”

“It was clearly a one-sided trial,” McCarron concluded.

Defense attorney Al Flora objected to the allowing testimony about the cases, arguing it wasn’t relevant to the charges against Ciavarella.

U.S. District Judge Edwin Kosik overruled him, agreeing with prosecutors that Ciavarella’s failure to disclose his financial involvement with a party in the trial constituted intrinsic evidence that could establish criminal intent and actions in furtherance of an alleged scheme.

Prosecutors also called state Department of Public Welfare Employee Doris Crowe, who summarized the federal funds paid to Luzerne County for juvenile detentions between July 2002 and June 2006, and Timothy Keating from the state Attorney General’s Office, who outlined efforts by former Luzerne County Controller Stephen Flood to obtain an audit of PA Child Care being done by DPW. Former Luzerne County President Judge and Ciavarella’s alleged co-conspirator Michael Conahan granted an injunction sealing the case and paperwork related to it.

Keating testified that when The Times Leader had an attorney seek a ruling to open the seal, Judge Michael Toole told him to take the request to Conahan, who immediately rejected it.

Lisa Davidson, who kept the books for Conahan-owned company Beverage Marketing, testified the former president judge funneled nearly half-a-million dollars to Ciavarella through the company.

The day ended with the testimony of two accountants. Michael DeCosmo filed tax returns for Pinnacle Group of Jupiter, the real-estate company owned by the wives Conahan and Ciavarella that prosecutors allege was used to launder kickback money, and Barry Spaniel, who filed returns for Michael and Barbara Conahan. DeCosmo testified as much as $839,000 was paid in equal shares to Barbara Conahan and Cindy Ciavarella, classified as rental income from a Florida condo.

Prosecutors questioned Spaniel about the tax returns he prepared for Conahan between 2003 and 2005. They planned to question him about the former judge’s 2006 return as well, but Kosik adjourned the court for the day before they had the chance.

“You have punished us all afternoon,” Kosik joked.

Spaniel will continue his testimony when the trial resumes Monday at the William J. Nealon U.S. Courthouse in Scranton.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Extended News; US: Pennsylvania
KEYWORDS: ciavarella; kidsforcash; luzernecounty; robertpowell

1 posted on 02/12/2011 1:58:17 AM PST by Born Conservative
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Tribune7


2 posted on 02/12/2011 1:59:05 AM PST by Born Conservative ("I'm a fan of disruptors" - Nancy Pelosi)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Owl_Eagle; brityank; Physicist; WhyisaTexasgirlinPA; GOPJ; abner; baseballmom; Mo1; Ciexyz; ...


3 posted on 02/12/2011 5:56:30 AM PST by Tribune7 (The Democrat Party is not a political organization but a religious cult.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson