This Pennsylvania “kids for cash” case is just making my heart hurt. I am literally crying reading the story. If you didn’t see the story, here is the gist of it:
“Prosecutors say former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella used children as pawns, locking them up unjustly in a plot to get rich. Ciavarella is accused of taking nearly $1 million in kickbacks from owners of private detention centers in exchange for placing juvenile defendants at their facilities, often for minor crimes. Ciavarella claims that the payment he received from a developer of the PA Child Care facility was legal and denies that he ever incarcerated kids for money. ”…
“Ciavarella, 61, was found guilty of 12 out of 39 charges on Friday, including racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy, in connection with the nearly $1 million payment from Robert Mericle, the developer of the PA Child Care center. He plans to appeal. Ciavarella was acquitted on charges of bribery and extortion in relation to additional payments from the center’s builder and owner.”
“Families complain of Ciavarella’s rapid-fire brand of justice and trials that lasted only minutes with even first-time offenders sent to detention centers.”
“In one reported case, Ciavarella sentenced a child to two years for joyriding in his mom’s car. In another, he sentenced a college-bound high school girl to three months in juvenile detention for creating a website that made fun of her assistant principal. Some of the kids he ordered locked up were as young as 10.”
One mom justifiably went crazy on the former judge as he left the building (I am trying to link up the video now. Hopefully can get it up soon.). “Sandy Fonzo’s son son Edward Kenzakoski was sentenced by Ciavarella to juvenile detention in 2003 for possession of drug paraphernalia. Fonzo said her 17-year-old son had no prior record when he landed in Ciavarella’s courtroom. She claims Kenzakoski never recovered from the months he served behind bars and years later, at 23, he killed himself. ”
” ‘Do you remember me? Do you remember me? Do you remember my son? He was an all-star wrestler and he’s gone,’ Fonzo screamed to Ciavarella as he exited the courthouse Friday.”
The mom had expected the judge to be carted off in handcuffs as he often did to the juveniles he sentenced. However he remained free until sentencing. He is expected to get a minimum of 12 years.
It is so hard as a parent when your child does something wrong. You know they have to punished, sometimes by you, sometimes by the school, and sometimes in court. And you hope that your child will be disciplined fairly. This literally makes me sick that these defenseless children and teenagers were sentenced inappropriately and suffered for more than their “crimes” warranted.
(Marsha Levick, deputy director of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, said the number of children going into placement (jails) from Luzerne County were two to three times higher than other counties!)
I don’t understand why it wasn’t noticed sooner. Why didn’t his bosses think anything about his “placement” rate? You know DA’s conviction rates are looked at. You would think judges’ penalties would be examine too.
What do you think of the case? How can you know your kids are being disciplined fairly (kids do make mistakes!)? What do you make of the mom lashing out? What would you do if you child had been unfairly sentenced?
(A 12-year-old girl is missing in Gwinnett County. I wanted to make sure everyone looked at her photos and read the story. Keep your eyes open for her!)