Counting Crows Play Wilkes-Barre: New Charges of Justice Run Amok

The allegations in the Luzerne County, Pennsylvania., judicial scandal are ugly enough: In exchange for kickbacks from private detention centers, former county judges Michael T. Conahan and and Mark A. Ciavarella sent hundreds of juveniles off to the centers, sometimes for rather lengthy stays. Click here, here, here, here and here for previous LB posts on the scandal.

But we recently got wind of an allegation tucked into a civil complaint concerning Ciavarella that’s really not for the faint of heart.

According to this story, from the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice, Ciavarella sentenced one former juvenile defendant to six months at a detention facility based solely on the number of birds perched on the ledge outside his courtroom. The allegation was made by attorneys for the plaintiff, now 21, who filed a lawsuit last week.

The suit has accused Ciavarella, the juvenile court judge from 1999 to May 2008, of inexplicably ordering Raul Clark to look at the ledge outside the courtroom during sentencing. Clark, according to the suit, was told to tell Ciavarella the number of birds he saw, the attorneys said.

Clark, 14 at the time of the November 2002 hearing, counted six; Ciavarella sentenced him to six months of detention – one for each bird, according to the lawsuit. Clark had appeared in Ciavarella’s courtroom on two misdemeanor charges: violating a town curfew and possession of a small drug pipe.

“Ciavarella’s cavalier conduct demonstrates that what took place before him was nothing more than theater for (his) amusement,” Clark’s attorneys wrote in the filing (link not available).

Ciavarella and Conahan did not return telephone messages left by the Citizens Voice last week.

The strange thing: As we’ve written before (click here and here), a federal judge ruled Ciavarella and Conahan, who await their criminal trial, can only be held liable for actions they took outside the courtroom to further their alleged kids-for-cash conspiracy. Ciavarella is immune, the federal judge said, from liability for any decisions he made while on the bench.


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