Saturday, February 19, 2011


Definition of Scooched:
Verb - The act of being betrayed by public officials
Noun (Scooch) -judge, politician, lawyer, any person abusing public trust for personal gain.  Could also be applied to any person turning blind eye to observed abuse of children.
Synonym - Childhood nickname of gangster Judge Mark Ciavarella
 Judge Mark "the Scooch" Ciavarella

Scranton- The media coverage of the recently concluded trial of Gangster Judge Mark “the Scooch” Ciavarella in Northeast Pennsylvania has been intense.   The stories are numerous and I would encourage everyone to acquaint themselves with the accounts of Ciavarella’s corruption, nepotism, case fixing, money laundering and more from writers more eloquent and knowledgeable than myself. (See coverage in Times Leader and Citizens Voice.)

For the past week I have attended, as time permitted, the testimony of witnesses in this incredible and gut-wrenching trial.  At the heart of it all:  the selling of kids into detention for profit.  Let us not sugar coat it and don't spin it; simply put it was about children being sent to a juvenile detention center for profit.   

Profit so Judge Mark “the Scooch” Ciavarella and Judge Mike “the Scooch” Conahan, along with lawyer Robert “the Scooch” Powell, businessman Rob “the Scooch” Mericle and many more “Scooches” still unnamed could live a lavish lifestyle on the backs of children, their families and the taxpayers of Luzerne County. 

This case has it all: pocketed political donations, cash in envelopes, cash in FedEx boxes, corruption on every level.   And yet it begs the question why did it go on for so long?  Where were the watchdogs, where were the advocates for the children, where were the court officers, county officials, and where were the lawyers?  Rats, all! 

Franklin's often quoted saying “he who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither” is most appropriate in this case.  “Scooch” Powell testified, “Conahan and Ciavarella were the most powerful people in the County.”  Is that why?  Our watchdogs were too afraid to speak out.  No one thought it unusual that counsel was not afforded to so many of these children?  Disgusting! 

Every person in the court system, child welfare system, or political officials found complicit in any way of allowing this repugnant behavior to continue needs to be relieved of their jobs as they are not capable of performing their duties and deserving of our trust.  Let this only be the beginning of the investigations.

After the initial verdict was read, the courtroom emptied out and I remained as the jury was asked to reconvene to clarify a money issue.  I stayed to observe the demeanor of the lawyers, defendant, and his family.  There was a family conference -- almost business like -- with smiles but lacking any emotion.  Ciaveralla seemed unfazed, detached and self-absorbed.

Then all trekked onto the court steps where Ciavarella’s attorney Al Flora claimed victory for the defense.  As the  impromptu press conference started, Sandy Fonzo, standing in the background, yelled at Ciavarella: 
 Defense attorney Al Flora, "the Scooch" and Sandy Fonzo

“I hope you rot in hell.   Do you remember me?  Do you remember my son?  He was an all-star wrestler and he's gone.  He shot himself in the heart.  You scumbag, you ruined my f..... life.  He was my son.  I don't have kids now.  I don't have anything.  I am not a mother.  I am not anything!” she cried.  Ciavarella's response, “I don't remember you.” Chilling! 

Story after story of child abuse with ridiculous sentences for minor offenses are way too abundant.  Failure to pay fines, underage drinking, parodies on Facebook -- all resulted in lengthy stays at these “scumbags,” yes “degenerates of society” ATM machine known as PA Child Care. The havoc caused to these children and families is incalculable.  I ask again, where were the watchdogs?  They, too, are culpable.

US Attorney's Press Conference

In the words of U.S. Attorney Peter Smith the “judiciary was a criminal enterprise.”  Everywhere we turn these days we seem to be in crisis.  Financial crisis, education crisis, security crisis.  Is there anything not in reform?  We have a corrupted criminal system where the words “you buy your justice in America” are heard way too often. 

The very cornerstone of our democracy of free and open elections is anything but in Pennsylvania and other jurisdictions where economic intimidation and antiquated election laws are the norm.  It is up to us as individuals to make a difference to get involved.  Where we see injustice or wrongdoing, it is our duty to stand up to speak and do something.  

 As we stare in the mirror, remember that if we don't stand for something we stand for nothing.  And as Edmund Burke is credited with saying, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  And so it is and was! Where were the watchdogs?

As Sandy Fonzo goes home to an empty house and memory of a dead child, Mark Ciavarella goes home to a warm bed and fine dinner enjoying the company of his family.  Nothing but the best of wine and steaks thanks to the very people he betrayed.   

There to stay as he awaits sentencing in the next 60-90 days unless, of course, that is delayed by the certain appeal he will file.  There to stay to get his affairs in order, something not afforded to the children and families he remanded to his ATM machine after a 30 second hearing.  I pray the citizens of Northeast Pennsylvania are not once again getting . . .


Louis R Jasikoff

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