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Gangster Judge Goes On Trial

Friday, February 04, 2011

“Scooch” goes on trial Monday.

And although no alleged Mafia connection exists that we know of the way it does with the star witness against the defendant, it ought to be a mob scene at the federal courthouse in Scranton.

I even bought a new black pinstripe suit for the occasion.

Former Luzerne County President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. is looking at big prison time if convicted on charges that he and the star witness – former Luzerne County President Judge Michael Conahan took bribes while officially getting paid to dispense justice.

Feds claim Scooch grabbed $2.1 million in kickbacks, as well as other gifts and cash.

In Luzerne County, flawed judges are nothing new. Indicted judges, however, are a rarity.

And Scooch is indicted big time – 39 counts.

But his luck is still holding. The original count slapped him with 48 federal felonies. Maybe that’s why he’s bucking the odds in this illegal sports betting paradise called Northeastern Pennsylvania and putting all his money on a jury trial that he hopes will make all his troubles go away.

And maybe they will.

Bravado is part of his personality. As long as I’ve known Scooch – going on 25 years – he’s matched his ego against opponents of all sizes. And he’s always come up smelling like a new Florida condo.

He once called me on the phone when I was writing newspaper columns and told me not to ever again contact his client, Glen Wolsieffer. I laughed out loud and told Scooch that just because he called I was heading right over to Wolsieffer’s office. Then the suspect in the strangulation death of his wife could personally tell me not to ever call or stop by again.

I would honor the request.

But despite Scooch’s self-inflated impression of himself, Scooch lacked power over the press to call me off.

That was before Scooch got himself elected and rose to the position of power in which he found himself when his kingdom suddenly came crashing down around him. By that time, convicted killer Wolsieffer was out of prison after 13 years and back on the street.

Now, Scooch faces decades in a cell for his own alleged crimes.

I say alleged although I will always call him a gangster. You might ask how I can say that because he’s innocent until proven guilty - due process and all that.

I sat in the courtroom after he was first arrested, long before the hefty indictment for which he now faces trial came down. And I watched him and Conahan plead guilty. I heard his guilty plea with my own ears. I even approached him and Conahan after the plea and asked if I could tell the WILK News Radio audience that they were sorry for what they had done.

Conahan turned red-faced and looked like his swelled head might explode.

Scooch smirked.

True to his longtime nickname, he scooched away into the shadows of the courtroom.

The federal judge later withdrew their pleas because he said neither criminal had taken full responsibility for their crimes. Conahan eventually saw the writing on the prison wall and pleaded guilty. Now he’s scheduled as a star witness against his former partner in crime.

Before this all broke two years ago and the massive ongoing public corruption investigation exploded in our community, I called Scooch about a matter I planned to discuss on the air. He took the call and we had a pleasant conversation. He even later came on the show and explained a fine point of law to the listeners.

During our off-air conversation, he told me that he and his wife had been listening to me since I moved back after five years in California and that she commented that I sounded less angry than before.

I laughed and said something about maturity.

He laughed, too.

Now I know that he wasn’t laughing with me.

Scooch was laughing at me.

Scooch was laughing at us all.

Maturity is still not his strong suit. Brash pathology drives him. Even though at least three of his crooked former high-profile pals are scheduled to line up and take the stand against him, Scooch is walking around like he’s still calling the shots and defining order in the court.

But he’s clearly out of order and likely out of his league.

Despite my maturity, inside I’m still angry. Outrage has never left me. I’m driven by the desire for truth and the craving for justice. Actually I feel something like a judge – an honest judge – something Scooch knows absolutely nothing about.

Tags :  
Topics : Law_Crime
Social :
Locations : CaliforniaFloridaLuzerne County
People : Glen WolsiefferMark A. Ciavarella Jr.Michael Conahan

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