The trial of Mark A. Ciavarella Jr highlights the dangerous gap in the juvenile justice systems of many states - children appearing in court without lawyers
The trial of Mark A. Ciavarella Jr highlights the dangerous gap in the juvenile justice systems of many states - children appearing in court without lawyers. Reuters/IBTimes

Mark Ciavarella, the former Pennsylvania judge who was convicted of racketeering and tax fraud last Friday, has been called a 'scumbag' by a grieving mother whose son committed suicide last year.

Ciavarella has told the media he never took bribe from anybody and has never wrongfully sentenced any teenager to juvenile detention. He was accused of receiving kickbacks from Robert K. Mericle, the builder and co-owner of two juvenile detention facilities in return for closing down the county's only juvenile detention center and sending teenage offenders to a private-run, for-profit facilities, sometimes for minor offenses. The former judge of Court of Common Pleas in Luzerne County has been accused of receiving $2.8 million as kickbacks.

The kids for cash case prompted the state Supreme Court to throw out thousands of convictions.

Ciavarella was found guilty, Friday, of 12 of 39 counts of corruption filed against him, including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, honest services mail fraud, money laundering conspiracy and a host of tax fraud charges. He was, however, cleared of extortion, bribery and honest services wire fraud charges.

The former judge, who has been released on a $1 million unsecured bond, left the courtroom smiling but met with an awkward situation when Sandy Fonzo, the mother of one of the teenage offenders he had sentenced, burst out and blamed him for ruining her son's life.

My kid's not here anymore! Fonzo screamed at Ciavarella in the presence of dozens of people. He's dead! Because of him! He ruined my **** life! I'd like him to go to hell and rot there forever! Do you remember me? Do you remember me? Do you remember my son, an all-star wrestler? He's gone. He shot himself in the heart. You scumbag!

Fonzo's son, Edward, was 17 and an all-star wrestler with a chance at a college scholarship at the time he landed in Ciavarella's courtroom on a minor drug charge. Though Edward had no prior criminal record, Ciavarella sentenced him to juvenile detention center for several months. As a result, Edward missed his senior year of high school and grew depressed and bitter. Last June, he committed suicide, at the age of 23.

He (Edward) was just never the same. He couldn't recover, Fonzo later told the reporters. He wanted to go on with his life, but he was just hurt. He was affected so deeply, more than anyone knew.

However, Ciavarella kept a poker face and ignored Fonzo. He also told the reporters who surrounded him that he didn't know what Fonzo was speaking about. I don't know that lady, he told the reporters. I don't know what the facts and circumstances are concerning her son.

Ciavarella's lawyer, Albert Flora also said it's high time the world knew that his client is innocent and never took a bribe in the 'Cash for Kids' case.

He never took a kickback, he never took a bribe. This is not a `cash for kids' case, and we hope that someone starts getting the message, Flora said, adding that his client will appeal the verdict.