“Presumption of Guilt” – A New Look at Kids for Cash

WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Former federal prosecutor Lorna Graham's new book is called "Presumption of Guilt."

Her writing is critical of the prosecution of former Luzerne County Juvenile Judge Mark Ciavarella.

She says the Ciavarella's only crimes were tax evasion and failing to list a finder's fee on his ethics form for helping to locate and build a privately-run juvenile detention center.

"He's not really a victim because he's a defendant and he's a criminal. He committed crimes and he admitted to that. However, where I feel he was railroaded, is the allegation that he jailed kids for cash," said Graham.

She says he was railroaded at his 2011 trial in federal court in Scranton.

At the time, Graham was a federal prosecutor who worked in the same office as the prosecutors who tried Ciavarella, and who obtained plea bargains from his co-defendants, Luzerne County Judge Michael Conahan, and businessmen Robert Powell and Robert Mericle.

Prosecutors argued that Ciavarella and Conahan received nearly $3 million in kickbacks for helping to close the county's aging juvenile detention center, and getting a new privately-run center built by business associates.

Graham says evidence showed Ciavarella never received money in exchange for ordering teens to the new center.

When asked "Why do you think all that got lost?" Graham answered, "Because it was a lot more sensational to say it was a Kids for Cash scandal."

In her book, Graham writes that justice failed Ciavarella and the victims of kids convicted in his courtroom.

She writes that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court bought into unproven allegations that Ciavarella cashed in on these sentences leading the state's high court to ultimately erase the criminal records of two thousand juvenile offenders.

"Victims of brutal assaults and other violent crimes could not count on the justice system. There was no longer a record that the assaults occurred. Restitution orders disappeared overnight. Burglaries and thefts that deprived citizens of their valuables, heirlooms, jewelry, precious collections and more were wiped out," said Graham.

As for Ciavarella, his recent successful appeal entitles him to a new federal trial on racketeering and money laundering which were his most serious convictions.

Federal prosecutors must now decide if they want to bring Ciavarella to trial again.

"My opinion is, they're not going to retry him. 28 years was his original sentence, but that was because the guidelines were calculated as if he was convicted of all the crimes he was acquitted of, and he was the Kids for Cash judge," said Graham.

1 Comment

  • darkhorse6669

    Oh come on. He sent a classmate of mine away for 6 months for creating a fake facebook page for our assistant principal and the page wasnt even bad. He was sending kids away for cash.

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