Name That Party: Pa. 'Kids for Cash' Dem Judge Sentenced, No Party ID

About the only "good" thing you can say about the Associated Press's coverage of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania judge Mark Ciavarella is that they have been consistent. That is, the wire service, led by reporter Michael Rubinkam, up to and including today, has consistently and disgracefully failed to tag the infamous "Kids for Cash" jurist and his judicial colleague in crime Michael Conahan as a Democrat.

The consistent failure is all the more unforgivable because, as shown here, one the earliest AP reports on the topic clearly stated that "Both are Democrats." Shortly thereafter, the sentence disappeared. Since then, to my knowledge (shown here and here), in the 2-1/2 years since the story first broke, no AP report on what the it has described as "one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record" has tagged either judge as a Democrat.

What follows are excerpts from Rubinkam's report on Ciavarella's sentencing. Those who are unfamiliar with the case should brace themselves for the scope of the cruelty inflicted on juvenile first-time and light offenders:

Pa. judge gets 28 years in 'kids for cash' case

A longtime northeastern Pennsylvania judge was ordered to spend nearly three decades in prison for his role in a massive juvenile justice bribery scandal that prompted the state's high court to toss thousands of convictions.

Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was sentenced Thursday to 28 years in federal prison for taking $1 million in bribes from the builder of a pair of juvenile detention centers in a case that became known as "kids for cash."

... In the wake of the scandal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.

Ciavarella, 61, was tried and convicted of racketeering charges earlier this year. His attorneys had asked for a "reasonable" sentence in court papers, saying, in effect, that he'd already been punished enough.

"The media attention to this matter has exceeded coverage given to many and almost all capital murders, and despite protestation, he will forever be unjustly branded as the 'Kids for Cash' judge," their sentencing memo said.

... Ciavarella, speaking before the sentence was handed down, apologized to the community and to those juveniles that appeared before him in his court.

"I blame no one but myself for what happened," he said, and then denied he had ever incarcerated any juveniles in exchange for money.

... Federal prosecutors accused Ciavarella and a second judge, Michael Conahan, of taking more than $2 million in bribes from the builder of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention centers and extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the facilities' co-owner.

Ciavarella, known for his harsh and autocratic courtroom demeanor, filled the beds of the private lockups with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders convicted of petty theft and other minor crimes.

Short of doing things to him that would themselves be illegal and therefore out of bounds, I don't see how this man or his colleague can ever be "punished enough."

That the AP has been "successful" in its party-ID coverup is pretty clear. An August 10-11 Google News search done at 12:40 PM ET today on Ciavarella's last name (sorted by date with duplicates) returned 590 items (the first page says it's 615, but it's really 590. The number will likely grow throughout the next couple days, as the sentence story is only about 2 hours old. An identically designed search done at the same time on "Ciavarella Democrat" (not in quotes) came back empty.

Don't try to tell me the judicial pair's party affiliation is irrelevant. There's little doubt that a pair of Republican judges engaged in such a pervasive, corrupt, and cruel conspiracy would have been properly tagged as GOP members all along. And besides, as noted earlier, AP did the right thing in its earliest report(s), and then stopped. The burden of proof is on AP, especially in light of its clear policy on party identification which would dictate that it should have been happening all along, as to why it didn't. "Because we could" is not an answer.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.