Thursday, February 19, 2009

Newspapers link PA judges with crime boss

A Pennsylvania newspaper chain has filed court documents accusing one or both of Luzerne County's corrupt ex-judges with connections to organized crime, according to a story by Dave Jonoski of the Citizens Voice and a petition filed with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The Scranton Times newspaper chain charges that a 2006 $3.5 million defamation verdict against the company "was fixed" and states that it has a witness who can link either former judge Mark A. Ciavarella or former judge Michael T. Conahan or both directly with William D'Elia (left), reputed head of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Mafia family.

"Among the recent events giving rise to this suggestion are: 1. The entry of guilty pleas by Judge Ciavarella and Judge Conahan to federal charges of defrauding the public of honest services and lying about it; 2. The entry of a guilty plea by William T. Sharkey, the former court administrator of Luzerne County, to federal charges of embezzling public funds; 3. The initiation of investigations into the handling by Judge Ciavarella and Judge Conahan of appointments of supposedly neutral arbitrators in uninsured/underinsured motorist cases; and 4. the public assertion by a Luzerne County lawyer that Judge Ciavarella and Judge Conahan extorted money from his clients and him in exchange for favorable rulings," the court document said.

"These very public revelations have fueled rampany rumors and speculation that Judge Conahan and Judge Ciavarella were fixing cases at the behest of William D'Elia," the document continued. "... Petitioners have identified a potential witness who, on reliable information and to Petitioners' belief, would testify concerning direct connections between D'Elia and Judge Conahan and/or Judge Ciavarella."

Judge Ciavarella decided the defamation case in a non-jury trial that was allegedly assigned to him through the efforts of Judge Conahan and his cousin, who served as court administrator. The defamation award was affirmed by a Pennsylvania court in September. The newspaper company is hoping the Supreme Court will vacate the judgment.

According to the Citizens Voice, Conahan and Ciavarella recently pleaded guilty to accepting $2.6 million in kickbacks from a juvenile detention center owner and contractor. The newspaper said Sharkey pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $70,000 from the county.

About Me

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Writer, editor, researcher, web publisher, specializing in organized crime history. (I am available to assist with your historical/genealogical research, as well as your writing and editing chores. Email me at
I am editor/publisher of crime history journal, Informer; publisher of American Mafia history website; moderator of Mafia-related online forums; author of Wrongly Executed?; coauthor of Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia and DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime; contributor of American Mafia history to Australian-published Mafia: The Necessary Reference to Organized Crime; writer/co-writer of crime history articles for Informer, On the Spot Journal, Cigar City Magazine, Tampa Mafia Magazine.