Monday, January 26, 2009

And in Other News...

The Citizens' Voice reports that Luzerne County judges Mark A. Ciavarella and Michael Conahan were charged today with two counts of conspiracy to impede the Internal Revenue Service in collecting federal income taxes and a scheme to defraud the citizens of Luzerne County and Pennsylvania of the right to their honest services.

Ciavarella and Conahan were charged with concealing the receipt of $2.6 million between January 2003 and April 2007. They have filed a plea agreement, signed by both judges, and pleaded guilty to honest service fraud and income tax conspiracy.

The judges stipulated they will resign their judgeship and be disbarred. They will serve 87 months in federal prison and make restitution as stipulated by the court.

Update: Press Release from U.S. Attorney General on Luzerne judges, and Information on Charges... and Ciavarella's Resignation Letter.

Update 2: Ciavarella's plea agreement ... Conahan's plea agreement.

Update 3: According to the Citizen's Voice: The information filed today alleges the judges received payments from two persons, identified as Individual # 1 and Individual # 2. They are not named, but the information says Individual # 1 was a Luzerne County attorney who was an owner of the Pennsylvania Child Care juvenile detention center that is at the core of the government’s case. Butler Township attorney Robert J. Powell was until June one of two co-owners of Pennsylvania Child Care. The other owner, Gregory Zappala, who is now sole owner of the firm, is a Pittsburgh-area investment banker.

The information says Individual #2 was the contractor that built Pennsylvania Child Care’s local facilty and another in Butler County. The contractor for both projects was Mericle Construction Inc., headed by local developer Robert Mericle.

Neither Powell nor Mericle responded immediately to requests for comment.

Update 4: Ciavarella releases a statement.

Update 5: State Supreme Court removes Conahan, Ciavarella from the bench.