Tuesday, February 22, 2011

'Rot in hell!' Heartbroken mom whose son committed suicide confronts crooked judge


Image: Mullen/AP
Sandy Fonzo of Wilkes-Barre, right, confronts former Luzerne County Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., as he leaves a courthouse after being convicted of racketeering.

A crooked judge who was convicted of taking bribes from private juvenile detention centers received a tongue-lashing outside court from a heartbroken mom whose son committed suicide after the judge unfairly threw the book at him.

Mark Ciavarella, a former juvenile court judge in Luzerne County, Penn., was convicted Friday of sentencing hundreds of kids convicted of minor offenses to harsh, for-profit detention centers in exchange for millions in kickbacks from the centers' owners.

The jury convicted Ciaverella, 61, of 12 counts, including racketeering and conspiracy, in one of the most stunning cases of judicial corruption in the state's history.

Ciaveralla was booted off the bench in Luzerne County two years ago after prosecutors first accused him and a second judge, Michael Conahan, of running the "cash for kids" scandal.

The two judges were accused of taking $2.6 million in bribes to send children to PA Child Care LLC, a juvenile lock-up in Wilkes-Barre, and another center for minor or first-time offenses, including stealing change from cars, joyriding and possessing drug paraphernalia.

As he was leaving court in Scranton, Ciaverella was confronted by Sandy Fonzo, whose son, Edward Kenzakoski, killed himself last year after the twisted judge's decision to put him away for a minor drug offense sent the boy's life spiraling out of control.

"My kid's not here anymore. He's dead! Because of him!" Fonzo shouted at the judge and his lawyer as they talked to reporters on the courthouse steps.

"He ruined my f------ life! I'd like him to go to hell and rot there forever!" she shouted.

As guards attempted to restrain her, Fonzo reached out and touched the ex-judge on the arm, shouting, "Do you remember me?"

"Do you remember my son? An all-star wrestler? He's gone, he shot himself in the heart, you scumbag!"

Kenzakoski was 17 and expecting to receive a college wrestling scholarship when he was busted for possession of drug paraphernalia and landed in the ex-judge's court.

Ciavarella, who was known as "Mr. Zero Tolerence," sentenced him to fours months in book camp and 30 days at the youth jail for the offense, which was his first.

As a result of the bust, the boy didn't get the scholarship he expected and fell into a life of crime and depression, his mom said.

He developed anger issues and was convicted of aggravated assault as an adult, Wilkes-Barre's Times Leader reported.

He shot himself last June, at the age of 23.

Edward Kenzakoski shot himself last year. His life spiraled out of control after the ex-judge sent him away for a minor drug offense. (CNN)

Fonzo said after the confrontation that she went after Ciavarella because she was angry that he had been allowed to go home pending sentencing instead of being sent to prison.

"My son was my life, that's all I had, and now it's gone. I don't have that same life. I don't exist right now," Fonzo told CNN.

[Ciavarella] took everything from me, and I'll never forgive him," she said.

The ex-judge said he was innocent throughout the trial, saying he "never took a dime to send a kid anywhere."

Ciavarella is free until his sentencing. He could face up to 157 years in prison.

Conahan agreed to plead guilty to fraud charges and will serve 87 months in prison.

With News Wire Services

Read more and watch the video: NYDailyNews

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