SCRANTON — A federal judge has sentenced Robert Mericle to one year in federal prison.
The sentence was handed down in federal court in Scranton around 11 a.m.
Developer Robert Mericle said nothing as he left the federal courthouse in Scranton after learning his punishment: $250,000 in fines, 100 hours of community service, and one year in federal prison, a term that surprised a well-known figure in the kids for cash scandal.
“I had my doubts because of the power and the money.”
Sandy Fonzo, who blames her son’s suicide on the Kids for Cash scandal worried Mericle would get little or no prison time.
“In the words of his lifelong friend Mark Ciavarella, he needed to be held accountable, and I feel that it’s just, and I’m happy,” Fonzo said.
“This was a win for the people, a win for the victims,” said Frank Soric of Wilkes-Barre
In September 2009, Mericle pleaded guilty to charges of withholding information about the deal that led to the Kids for Cash scandal.
Mericle got the contract to build a for-profit juvenile detention center near Pittston. He paid more than $2 million to Luzerne County Judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella as a finder’s fee.
As a result of the scandal, Ciavarella is serving a 28-year federal prison term Conahan is serving a 17-year sentence.
When Mericle entered the federal courthouse in Scranton in the morning, he hoped his lawyers would convince Judge Edwin Kosik to a sentence of probation or house arrest, for his many good deeds and cooperation with federal prosecutors.
But when Judge Kosik handed down his sentence, he said of Mericle, “I believe he is trafficking on his contributions to the community.”
Judge Kosik added the case was about, “nothing but corruption.”
“When Mr. Mericle makes a donation, it’s for an ulterior motive, and I think that’s the point the judge took, in that same sense,” said Soric.
A number of character witnesses testified on Mericle’s behalf before the sentence was announced.
Mericle’s attorney noted his cooperation with the government, helping convict former judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan with his testimony.
Mericle said he was sorry and ashamed to put his family and friends through this.
Prosecutors said corrupt public officials wouldn’t be corrupt if there weren’t people who paid them the money.
U.S. Attorney Peter Smith called the sentence “appropriate.”
Mericle pleaded guilty in September 2009 to charges of failing to report a federal crime to authorities.
For more than four and a half years, developer Rob Mericle said nothing about his role in the so-called Kids for Cash scandal in the Luzerne County justice system.
At the federal trial of former judge Mark Ciavarella, Mericle testified he paid Ciavarella and ex-judge Michael Conahan more than $2 million in finder’s fees.
In return, Mericle Construction built a pair of for-profit juvenile lockups, including the one in Luzerne County that was at the heart of the crime.
Ciavarella and Conahan were sentenced to long federal prison terms.
Mericle’s lawyers are expected to note Mericle’s civic contributions, including his donation of equipment and manpower during a crisis in 2011.
Mericle Construction’s equipment during the September flood of 2011 helped buffer weak spots of the west side of the Susquehanna River levee that protects Kingston and Forty Fort.
Mericle has until June 2 to report to federal prison.