Former Luzerne County President Judge Michael T. Conahan moved one step closer to a federal prison cell this morning with his guilty plea to a racketeering conspiracy charge in U.S. District Court in Scranton.I wrote about this case before in Nov. 2009 and Feb. 2009. It was delayed by the soft plea deal, as well as the US Supreme Court rejecting the vagueness of a law against "honest services fraud".
Conahan withdrew a previous guilty plea last summer after U.S. District Judge Edwin M. Kosik judge rejected the 87-month jail term spelled out in his plea agreement. That agreement allowed him to back out if he was dissatisfied with his sentence.
His new agreement with prosecutors, signed in April, has no escape clause and Conahan will face up to 20 years when he is sentenced by Kosik, who accepted his guilty plea today. ...
Conahan, 58, and Ciavarella, 60, were charged in January 2009 with accepting $2.8 million from the builder and owner of a for-profit detention center that housed county juveniles.
Prosecutors say Conahan, as president judge, closed a county-owned center and signed a secret agreement to utilize the for-profit center while Ciavarella, as juvenile court judge, ensured a steady flow of detainees.
These two judges were doing something alarmingly crooked. They were jailing juveniles in order to get money kickbacks from the manager of the private prison. It is distressing that prosecutors have had such a difficult time finding some law to accuse these judges of violating. There ought to be laws directly against judicial corruption, without having to rely on vague laws against racketeering and honest services fraud.
These judges need to be more accountable for what they do. Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph did worse things than these Penn. judges, and yet he was allowed to retire and open up a consulting business.