Five Years Since Ciavarella and Conahan were Charged

Sunday marked the anniversary of a huge scandal that rocked northeastern and central Pennsylvania and made headlines across the country.

It was five years ago that two Luzerne County judges were charged with taking money to send children to a juvenile detention facility near Pittston.

On January 26, 2009 an announcement came about the indictment of two judges and the start of a sequence of corruption arrests that rocked the Luzerne County Courthouse and beyond.

The feds accused President Judge Mark Ciavarella and former President Judge Michael Conahan of taking $2.6 million from the operators of a juvenile detention facility near Pittston to keep it in operation and keep juvenile defendants filling the beds there.

It became known as “Kids for Cash.”

“The behavior filed in the charges today represents a flagrant abuse of the public trust of all citizens in Luzerne County and honest taxpayers everywhere,” said Leslie Demarco back in 2009, IRS special agent.

We started to hear stories of Ciavarella putting kids behind bars for minor crimes.

Parents were thrilled Ciavarella and Conahan agreed to plead guilty.

“I’d like to see what happens to them, like what happened to my son. I’d like to see them put in shackles and taken away, cause that’s what they did to my son,” said Susan Mishanski of Hanover Township back in February of 2009.

Both originally agreed to spend seven years in prison, but then Ciavarella talked exclusively with Newswatch 16.

“I loved the juvenile court, I loved helping those kids. I would never do anything to hurt a child, that’s just not what I do. That’s not me. I was always there for those kids. I resent the fact that people think I did something improper. I didn’t do anything improper when it came to the care of those kids,” said Ciavarella in July of 2009.

Days after that interview, a federal judge rejected the guilty pleas of Ciavarella and Conahan, saying their behavior didn’t really accept guilt.

Conahan went on to plead guilty again, but Ciavarella went to trial in 2011, deciding to fight the charges against him, a fight that failed.

It was quite a scene outside federal court the day a jury convicted Ciavarella on charges including racketeering and money laundering. He was met by the mom of a boy he sentenced years before.

“Do you remember me, do you remember my son?! He’s gone, he shot himself in the heart,” screamed the mother.

As Ciavarella left court a guilty man, he still insisted this was never about kids for cash.

Absolutely never took a dime to send a kid to jail. If that was the case, don’t you think the government would have put that case on? Never ever happened,” said Ciavarella.

A judge sent Michael Conahan to federal prison for 17-and-a-half years. Ciavarella got 28 years.

As he was hauled away in a van to spend decades in prison, the kids he once sent away, spoke out.

“It’s sad he still can’t admit to it, he’s still saying everyone’s wrong, like he’s not admitting to what he did.”

“We apologized to him, he didn’t care what we said. No one cares what he says.”

Those kids got the final word as two once powerful Luzerne County judges were put away.

13 comments

  • Jackie

    I was a victim of his cruel money scheme from ciaverella . I was pulled out of school in handcuffs in front if all my classmates and taken away in cruiser I then was sent away at the womens detention center for marijuana joint in my hand he sent me there for 90 days. Cockroaches and filth. We’re I was young and confused and didn’t understand why I was being treated like a criminal I didn’t know any better I was 14 years old.i then ran away were I was found 30 days later by a private investigator. They then drove us to this place (day care to hold me but they then removed me for security reasons. I was then taking to Pensacola fl detention center for 90 days ,spent Christmas and all and never was allowed to call home. I was beat by the girls there bc I was the only white one there. They then flighted me back to pa with shackles and cuffed behind my back with orange jumper suit on. I then was put in pa pittston center for 60 days holding until they transfered me to the wind gap camp facility in lehighton pa. For 160 days. I lost my education , my personality changed , I am defensive and trust no one, I was abused in these facilities by the girls and was thrown racist comments at me daily. I froze at the camp that they had us sleep in and when I needed to use the bathroom we had to walk to the john with no shoes on in the cold and sometimes we had to wait to use the bathroom on there convenience bc they were either sleeping in the barracks watching us or being spiteful and making us wait , I soiled myself several times waiting. I was lonely , sad, depressed, and didn’t know why I was here over a marijuana joint in my hand charge. I felt like my word ended . I wasn’t in school I never graduated and lost out on 2 years of my life. My parents spent a lot of money and were struggling to get by while I was away. I remember visitations had me cuffed when I saw them. It always made me cry.i am scarred for life I suffer from depression anxiety and issues with what he did to me. In my eyes he is a murderer he messed with some many kids minds emotions and feelings who went through this , not the same as me but for minor offensives and they took there lives. I was reading about a child who shot him self in the heart. Ciaverella how could you be such an insensitive cruel lying money scheming prick?i would call you every name in the book but I’m smarter than that ! I hope god has a hot place for you! I hope you rot in there like we all did! How does it feel? We are human and have hearts one that you lack.

    • bob

      next time lock your doors thats your own ignorance you dont go taking your stupidity out on other innocent people you dont even now just because you hate life right now gives you no right to talk to anyone like you did! you dont know anyones story nor gives you the right to judge. if you treat people like the way i just seen your post you deserved what you got! now go comment more hate and you should watch what you say, slander, hate threats, etc will get you in trouble.

  • tami

    I’m one of the mom’s in the kids for cash , and i think it is a shame that i paid for all my son court cost and all of his other fees in full and they sent me a check for 25.00 dollars and denied me and appeal they are sending out second check , but only to the kids that got OVER 5.000.00 . they would not even give me any of my child’s records when i went down there they told me ever thing was clear out. so there still covering for him…

  • Mike O'Hara

    It was Ciavarellas’s kangaroo court that approved construction of the arena, contrary to the will of the voter referendum. The level of corruption there would make Dan Flood green with envy

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