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February 18

Distraught mother confronts Ciavarella outside courthouse - VIDEO

The mother of man who as a juvenile was incarcerated by fomer judge Mark Ciavarella angrily confronted him outside the courthouse, screaming at him that he was responsible for her son's suicide nine months ago.


Sandy Fonzo of Wilkes-Barre was pushed away from Ciavarella by security after she jabbed at him. She had raced to the courthouse from her job in Kingston after hearing a verdict came in so that she could see him taken away in handcuffs. She was incensed that he was allowed to remain free pending sentencing.

Fonzo's son, Edward Kenzakoski, had been jailed by Ciavarella when he was 17 for a minor infraction. He was never the same after he was released, becoming bitter, angry and plagued by depression. That depression led him to commit suicide by shooting himself in the heart.

"It just destroyed him," a distraught Fonzo said as she spoke with members of the media who followed her as she walked away from the courthouse. "He was depressed. One night he took a gun and shot himself in the heart."

Fonzo said she was particularly incensed because Ciavarella appeared to have a "smirk" on his face as she screamed at him.

"I just wanted to see him in handcuffs but I saw him released with this stupid smirk on his face," she said.

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Sandy Fonzo of Wilkes-Barre, right, screams at former Judge Mark Ciavarella saying that he was responsible for her son's suicide on the steps of the federal courthouse in Scranton Friday afternoon. BILL TARUTIS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER

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Former Judge Mark Ciavarella leaves the federal courthouse in Scranton on Friday after being charged with 12 of 39 counts of corruption. (PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADER)

Additional Photos Below

Related Documents

134 9-29-10 Superseding indictment for Ciavarella
176 2-1-10 gov proposed jury instructions
201 gov proposed verdict slip

 

Warning: Explicit Language


Posted 4:09


In a press conference following the verdict, U.S. Attorney Peter Smith thanked the jury for its work and said the jurors "joined the vast majority of the community in rejecting corruption as the way things are" in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Smith also thanked the citizens of Luzerne County, "including the press and the media" for patience and constructive criticism of the investigation and prosecution, as well as their understanding when the government could not disclose "vast amounts of information."

The jury's verdict "Is an answer to those who maintain corruption is the norm," Smith said, "It put the lie to the idea that the culture cannot be changed. I think it must be changed."

Smith thanked the team of assistant attorneys who prosecuted the case and those behind he scene who did extensive work in the prosecution and investigation.

Smith said racketeering was originally intended "for street thugs," and that success in getting a racketeering conviction was difficult..

"We think the jury's verdict is an appropriate comment on the conduct of the defendant in this case," Smith said.

Asked about Ciavarella's claim of a victory because he was not convicted of extortion or accepting bribes in exchange for sendin children to a private facility, Smith said "If a man thinks a racketeering conviction is a victory," what does he consider a defeat?

"We're very sympathetic to the pain of the community that was caused here," Smith said, "But federal judicial courts" are not the place to resolve those complaints.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Gordon Zubrod noted that the indictment alleged the tenure of MIchael Conahan and Ciavarella "was a criminal enterprise," stressing the "was."

"The idea that this is business as usual in Northeastern Pennsylvania has been called into question," and that happened because of residents of the area.

 


 

 

3:44 p.m.

Outside the courtroom after his conviction on 12 of 39 counts, former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella said he "never took a dime to send a kid anywhere," and that the verdict proved it.

Ciavarella's attorney Al Flora said "We're amazed the jury rejected 95 percent of the government's case."

"He never took a kickback," Flora said, "there was never a bribe, this was not a cash for kids scandal."

As Flora spoke, one woman standing next to Ciavarella screamed "this was not a cash for kids scandal? My kid's not here anymore." She alleged her son's death stemmed from his sentencing by Ciavarella.

3:22 p.m.

SCRANTON Rejecting arguments by the prosecution that newly-convicted Mark Ciavarella is a flight risk, Judge Edwin Kosik released Ciavarella to the custody of his  daughter, Nicole.

Sentencing guidelines for the 12 guilty verdicts call for up to 188 months in prison, and prosecutors argued that made Ciavarella a flight risk, but Kosik disagreed.

The jury also returned from deliberations and said Ciavarella must forfeit property worth or otherwise pay $996,700 in the case, which would be the amount he received from Developer Robert Mericle as a finder's fee in the construction of PA Child Care in Pittston Township. The jury found Ciavarella guilty in relation to that payment, but not guilty in relation to other finder's fees from Mericle or any of the money paid by Attorney Robert Powell, the facility's co-owner.

 

UPDATED 3:15 p.m.

UPDATED 3:04 p.m.

2:40 p.m.

The daughter of former judge Mark Ciavarella said the family takes some solace in the verdict, because it proves her father did not extort or accept bribes from Attorney Robert Powell

"Now everyone knows Bob Powell is a liar," Nicole Oravic said shortly after the verdict was read. "It's been proven by a jury of 12, he's a liar, not just by us."

Ciavarella had maintained throughout the trial that he accepted a finder's fee from Robert Mericle, but adamantly denied extorting Powell. The jury found Ciavarella guilty of charges related to the first "finder's fee" he received from Robert Mericle, but not guilty of all charges, including bribery and extortion for charges related to Powell.

Ciavarella had been given an opportunity to plead to one of the charges, but refused to do so because he would not admit to extorting Powell. Sentencing guidelines call for 151 to 188 months in jail.

"That's what he wanted," Oravic said. "He said he would never plead guilty to bribers or kickbacks, and he didn't."

Laurene Transue, whose daughter Hillary was sentenced by Ciavarella, has attended every day of the trial. After the verdict Transue had a mixed reaction. "We all know he took the money. Those of us who were in the room saw what happened. So finding him a criminal is nothing knew. We all knew that," Transue said.

She added, however, that "even if they found him guilty of every single count it still wouldn't answer to what happened to these kids. It still wouldn't be him saying 'I abused the children and families of Luzerne County. It's not about how long he's going to jail, it's about recognition of how he abused our children.

Sonya Ormsby, whose daughter Daniella was sentenced to PA Child Care and a halfway house afterward by Ciavarella said she was "thrilled" by the verdict.

"I had a feeling that they weren't going to get him on the extortion or bribery," Ormsby said. "He's going to jail, that's all that matters.

Spectators are now waiting for the jury to deliberate on whether or not Ciavarella will have to forfeit money in the case, and how much.

In finding Ciavarella guilty of the first count of racketeering, the jury had to unanimously agree he was guilty of at least two of 13 other charges. The jury determined he was guilty of the first three, all wire fraud charges stemming from money that came from Mericle as a "finder's fee" related to the construction of PA Child Care in Pittston Township. Powell co-owned the facility and Ciavarella helped connect Mericle to Powell. Powell then gave Mericle the contract to build the private juvenile detention and treatment center.

The jury found Ciavarella innocent of charges related to a $1 million "finder's fee" Mericle paid when he got the contract to build a second facility, Western Pa Child Care near Pittsburgh, or a $150,000 "finder's fee paid after Mericle got the contract for an expansion of the Pittston Township Facility. 

The jury found Ciavarella not guilty of all charges related to money from Powell, including alleged rent for a Florida condominium and cash payments

;;;;;

After finding Mark  Ciavarella guilty of 12 of 39 counts,  the jury returned to deliberations to decide on possible forfeiture of $2.8 million in property under racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and mail fraud  laws.

To do so, the jury must find that the property in question was derived from proceeds Ciavarella obtained from the racketeering and other offenses for which he was found guilty.Defense Attorney Al Flora argued that only $610,000 should be attributed to Ciavarella. He said the rest should be attributed to former judge Michael Conahan, who was accused along with Ciavarella of accepting the payments from Mericle and Powell in exchange for actions from the bench that benefited private juvenile facilities Powell co-owned and Mericle built.

Other guilty charges included conspiracy, honest services mail fraud and Conspiracy to defraud the United States and filing false tax returns.

While Ciavarella was found guilty only on the charges related to the first "finder's fee" paid by Robert Miracle, he was found not guilty to all charges of extortion or bribery related to Robert Powell. 

The jury found Mark Ciavarella guilty of 12 of 39 counts, including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, honest services mail fraud and Conspiracy to defraud the United States and filing false tax returns. The jury ruled not guilty on extortion and bribery charges. And while the verdict on an overall money laundering charge was guilty, the jury ruled not guilty on specific laundering charges proposed by the prosecution The findings for each count are posted below

 COUNT 1 Racketeering. GUILTY. Ciavarella was accused of of involvement in illegal payments from Developer Robert Mericle, who built the private juvenile facility PA Child Care, and facility co-owner Attorney Robert Powell.

The verdicts in the other counts:

Count 2: Racketeering conspiracy, accusing Ciavarella of conspiring to conduct and participate in an enterprise to commit criminal acts. The jury did not have to find that he actually committed any criminal acts for this charge.  GUILTY

Counts three through six relate to the transfer of money via wire, specifically ALL NOT  GUILTY

Count 3: $120,000 wire transfer on July 12, 2004. This refers to a payment from Robert Powell's company Vision Holdings.NOT GUILTY

Count 4: 100,000 wire transfer on Sept. 23, 2004. This refers to a payment from Powell NOT GUILTY

Count 5: $1 million wire transfer on on July 15, 2006. This refers to a "finder's fee paid by developer Robert Mericle. NOT GUILTY

Count 6: $150,0000 wire transfer on Feb. 3, 2006. This refers to a "finder's fee" paid by Mericle for expansion of a detention facility co-owned by Powell. NOT GUILTY

Counts seven through 10 involve charges Ciavarella mailed false financial interest statements he is required by law to file annually as a judge. Prosecutors claim Ciavarella did not report income from various business ventures involving Powell and Mericle, including money Mericle claimed he paid Ciavarella as a "finder's fee" for connecting him with Powell in Powell's efforts to build the private juvenile detention facilities PA Child Care in Pittston Township and Western Pa Child Care near Pittsburgh.

Count 7 Mailing of statement of financial interest in April, 2004 for the year 2003 GUILTY

Count 8: Mailing of statement of financial interest in March, 2005, for the year 2004 GUILTY

Count 9: Mailing of statement of financial interest in April, 2006, for the year 2005 GUILTY
  GUILTY
Count 10: Mailing of statement of financial interest in March, 2007, for the year 2006

Counts 11 through 20 are charges of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. In this case, the federal funds were reimbursements Luzerne County received for housing children in the private juvenile facilities co-owned by Robert Powell and built by Robert Mericle.

ALL NOT GUILTY

Count 11: Checks totaling $200,000 paid between Feb. 15 and 24, 2004 This refers to a payment from Powell NOT GUILTY

Count 12: Checks totaling $100,000 paid on April 30, 2004. This refers to a payment from Powell

NOT GUILTY

Count 13: $120,000 wire transfer on July 12, 2004.This refers to a payment from Powell

NOT GUILTY

Count 14: $100,000 wire transfer on July 12, 20004. This refers to a payment from Powell

NOT GUILTY

Count 15: $1 million wire transfer on July 15, 2005 This refers to a payment by Mericle

NOT GUILTY

Count 16 $150,000 wire transfer on Feb. 3, 2006. This refers to a payment by Mericle NOT GUILTY

Count 17: $42,000 payment on Aug. 16, 2006. This refers to a cash payment from Powell NOT GUILTY

Count 18: $20,000 payment on Nov. 1, 2006.This refers to a cash payment from Powell NOT GUILTY

Count 19: $50,000 payment on Nov. 20, 2006. This refers to a cash payment from Powell NOT GUILTY

Count 20: $31,500 payment on Dec 18, 2006.This refers to a cash payment from Powell (Note: the original proposed jury verdict sheet gave the incorrect amount and date for this count)

NOT GUILTY

Count 21 is a money laundering conspiracy charge saying Ciavarella deliberately tried to hide income by funneling the money through other sources before receiving it.

GUILTY

Counts 22 through 26 are specific money laundering charges. ALL NOT GUILTY

Count 22: Checks totaling $70,000 deposited Jan. 20, 2004. This refers to a payment from Powell

Count 23 Checks totaling $200,000 deposited Feb. 24, 2004. This refers to a payment from Powell

Count 24: Checks totaling $100,000 deposited on May 3, 2004. This refers to a payment from Powell

Count 25: $120,000 wire transfer on July 12, 2004. This refers to a payment from Powell

Count 26: Count $100,000 wire transfer on Sept. 23, 2004. This refers to a payment from Powell

Counts 27 through 34 are charges of extortion. The prosecution contends Ciavarella used the power of his office - his authority to determine where juveniles adjudicated delinquent were sent for detention or treatment  - to extort money from Powell, who owned two private juvenile centers. In most cases, the payments are the same as mentioned in previous charges.

ALL NOT GUILTY

Count 27: Three checks totaling $200,000 paid between Feb. 15 and Feb. 24, 2004

Count 28: Two checks totaling $100,000 paid on April 30, 2004.

Count 29: $120,000 wire transfer on July 12, 2004

Count 30: $100,000 wire transfer on Sept. 23, 2004

Count 31: $42,000 payment on Aug. 16, 2006.

Count 32: $20,000 payment on Nov. 1, 2006.

Count 33: $50,000 payment on Nov. 20, 2006.

Count 34: $31,500 payment on Dec. 18, 2006.

Count 35 is conspiracy to defraud the United States, and involves Conahan's failure to report income from Powell and Mericle. Conspiracy laws allow a person to be convicted of the charge even if they didn't commit the act, but their co-conspirator did. GUILTY

Counts 36 through 39 are charges that Ciavarella filed false income tax forms, failing to report income from Powell and Mericle.During the trial, Ciavarella admitted he filed false forms three years. ALL GUILTY

Count 36: IRS form 1040  filed on or about April 15, 2004 for the year 2003.

Count 37: IRS form 1040 filed on or about April 15, 2005, for the year 2004.

Count 38: IRS form 1040 filed on or about April 15, 2006 for the year 2005.

Count 39: IRS form 1040 filed on or about April 15, 2007, for the year 2006

 

SCRANTON - Judge Edwin Kosik discussed three questions from jurors with attorneys, and prosecutors said two of the questions arose from typographical errors in paperwork provided to the jury.

Prosecuting attorneys said the typos have been fixed and new paperwork provided to the jury. They typos involved amounts and dates of wire transfers of money to Ciavarella and Michael Conahan. One of those errors listed a payment of $100,000 in count 25, when the amount should have been $120,000

A third question involved cash payments from Powell that were delivered in FedEx boxes by his law partner Jill Moran. The jury questioned how many payments she delivered and sought to correlate the payments with specific charges in the indictment. After some debate among attorneys and the judges pointing out testimony apparently varied - Powell said there were two cash payments, Moran said three - the parties agreed to tell the jury they must rely on their own recollections.

The typographical errors were among three found on the verdict slip prosecution filed that the jury is using. The others involved a section of the racketeering act which misstated a wire transfer as $150,000,000 when the amount was $150,000.

Another one involved count 20, a bribery charge. The verdict slip said the payment was $50,000 on Nov. 20, 2006 when it was for $31,500 on Dec. 18, 2006 The U.S. Attorney's office said both those errors were corrected on the slip before it was given to the jury.

Kosik put a positive spin on the questions, noting that, if the jury was up to count 25 of 39, it shows "they made some progress," Then with his usual wry style, he added "Unless they started at the end."

12:54 p.m.

SCRANTON - After nearly 11 hours of deliberations without much interaction outside their chamber, the jury in the Mark Ciavarella trial has begun asking questions and clarifications from Judge Edwin Kosik and the attorneys.

Kosik said the questions have been primarily technical, the most recent involving the issue of wire transfers, part of the 39 charges against Ciavarella.

 

9:16 a.m.

SCRANTON - Deliberations resume this morning as a jury works through 39 charges leveled against former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella.

The first charge, racketeering, may be the most difficult and illustrates the complexity of their task. in order to find Ciavarella guilty of that charge, the jury must wade through 13 other charges and see if they all agree that he is guilty of two of them. They must all agree on the same two charges.

Other charges are similarly interrelated, though not as clearly. For example, many of the honest services fraud charges hinge on the jury accepting the prosecution's portrayal of payments Ciavarella received from Robert Mericle and Robert Powell as bribes or kickbacks.

If the jury accepts Ciavarella's interpretation - that the money came as legal referral fees from Mericle and rental payments for a condo from Powell, those charges become unsupportable. Ciavarella has been adamant in his claim that he believed they were legal payments, even while admitting he attempted to hide them and did not report them on tax returns or state-mandated statements of financial interest.

The indictment, jury instructions and jury verdict slip are posted here.

Ciavarella and his family have returned to an attorney/witness room where they spent much of yesterday's deliberations.


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Additional Photos

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Former Judge Mark Ciavarella arrives at the federal courthouse in Scranton on Friday with his wife Cindy for Ciavarella's trial on corruption charges. (PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADER)

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U.S. Assistant Attorney Gordon Zubrod. BILL TARUTIS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER

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U.S. Assistant Attorney Michael Consiglio. BILL TARUTIS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER

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U.S. Attorney Peter Smith. BILL TARUTIS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER

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Former Judge Mark Ciavarella is pursued by the media as he makes his way down North Washington Avenue in Scranton Friday afternoon after being convicted of 12 of 39 counts. BILL TARUTIS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER

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Sandy Fonzo shows her frustration after shouting down former Judge Mark Ciavarella following Friday's Ciavarella trial at the federal courthouse in Scranton. (PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADER)

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U.S. Attorney Peter Smith, left, comments on the Ciavarella trial verdict as U.S. Assistant Attorneys Gordon Zubrod and William Houser look on at the federal courthouse in Scranton Friday afternoon. BILL TARUTIS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER

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Joe D'Andrea, attorney for Robert Powell, is interviewed before the jury rendered its verdict in the Ciavarella trial. BILL TARUTIS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER

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Former Judge Mark Ciavarella responds to questions along North Washington Avenue in Scranton after being found guilty of 12 of 39 counts on Friday afternoon. BILL TARUTIS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER

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Former Judge Mark Ciavarella's wife, Cindy, opens the door of his get-away car after leaving the federal courthouse in Scranton Friday afternoon. BILL TARUTIS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER

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U.S. Assistant Attorney William Houser. BILL TARUTIS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER




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