American Scandal

Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.

Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.

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The "Kids for Cash" Kickback Scheme | The Joke that Landed a Girl in Jail | 2

Tue, 23 May 2023 07:01

Mark Ciavarella doubles down on his policy of zero tolerance. Residents begin to raise questions about corruption.

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Hey, prime members, you can binge all three episodes of American Scandal, the Kids for Cash Kickback scheme. Add free on Amazon Music. Download the app today. It's December 28, 2004 in Wilkesbury, Pennsylvania. In the Luzern County Courthouse, defense attorney Steven Urbansky is sitting inside courtroom number four, getting ready to present his case to the judge. Urbansky finishes scribbling a note on a yellow legal pad, then turns and gives his client a reassuring smile, trying to convey the message that he has nothing to worry about. But the small gesture isn't having much of an effect on his client. Urbansky is representing a scrawny boy named Matthew, who's only in the seventh grade. He looks pale and terrified to be sitting in court. And while Urbansky wishes he could offer some concrete promises and set Matthew's mind at ease, he knows this case could take some unexpected turns. Matthew was recently charged with assaulting an adult. It all started when he got into an altercation with his mother's boyfriend. The boy's mother didn't actually see the incident, but her boyfriend claimed that Matthew shoved him and later threw a stake at him. When Urbansky was brought onto the case, he assumed that that was just another garden variety dispute between a teenager and his family. But unfortunately, the boy's mother decided to escalate the conflict. She ended up calling the police, filing charges against her own son. Urbansky feels a lot of sympathy for this young boy. His parents went through a messy divorce, and they're still in the middle of a custody battle. So it was Matthew's father, who hired Urbansky to serve his son's defense attorney. It's an ugly situation, but Urbansky doesn't think there should be an especially hard case for Judge Mark Shiverella. The defense attorney believes the judge should throw out the charges, and then put Matthew back in his father's custody. Urbansky finishes preparing his remarks and rises from the defense table. Then he turns to Judge Shiverella, a diminutive man with wire frame glasses and an air of self-importance. Your Honor, my client takes responsibility for the verbal dispute with his mother's boyfriend, but we need to address the alleged incident at the center of these charges. My client has been accused of throwing a stake at an adult man, but the fact is that never happened. The argument never rose above a simple disagreement. Well, Mr. Urbansky, the defendant's mother and her boyfriend have both testified otherwise. How do you explain that? Your Honor, we've got a complicated situation. The defendant's parents are in the midst of a lengthy dispute over custody rights. Tensions are running high, so I'd ask that the court give everyone a chance to cool off. The best way to accomplish that is to place my client in his father's custody. I'll count so I'm not interested in any squabbles over parental rights. You'll remember that this isn't a custody hearing. This is about your client's assault of his mother's partner. Your Honor, I have to push back on that if you will. We're talking about a fully grown man who suffered no injuries. My client, on the other hand, is a seventh grader who barely weighs a hundred pounds soaking wet. I must repeat, this was not an assault. Well, I've heard enough. I'd like to speak to the defendant. Urbansky pauses, glancing over at his client. He's not entirely surprised by how this is playing out. He's heard stories about this judge, that he can be uncaring and even cruel. But Matthew does need to address him, so Urbansky gives him the go ahead, and he begins explaining his side of the story. But Chivarella quickly cuts him off. Well, look, son, clearly neither your parents have a firm grasp on discipline. That responsibility now falls on the state of Pennsylvania. Urbansky jumps in. Your Honor, I'd suggest we set aside any thoughts of discipline. My client has no prior record. I don't want to hear it, counsel. Your client is hereby remanded to juvenile detention. Striking his gavill, judge Chivarella brings the hearing to a close. And a moment later, a pair of officers come barreling toward Matthew. They grab the boy by his elbows and begin dragging him out of the courtroom. Urbansky watches speechless as Matthew is escorted out his eyes wide with fear. Urbansky has never seen anything like this, a scrawny young boy being treated like a violent criminal. And when Urbansky looks back at Chivarella, the judge doesn't look even slightly affected. He's already moved on to the next case. Urbansky shakes his head and disgust. In all his years practicing law, he's never encountered a miscarriage of justice quite like this. And on some level, it doesn't even make sense. How could a judge be so callous? What could drive a man to punish an innocent boy without even batting an eye? American scandal is sponsored by Schlag locks. 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Sleep number beds already adjust from soft to supportive on both sides. But sleep numbers sleep IQ technology also tracks how well you're sleeping to improve your sleep and energy and find your ideal schedule. I know my sleep number. It's 45. Discover yours and sleep next level. Unlock your unique potential with a smart bed that can perform as well as you. And now say 50% on the sleep number limited edition smart bed. Plus special financing for a limited time. Only at sleep number stores or See store for details. From Wondery, I'm Lindsey Graham and this is American scandal. In northeastern Pennsylvania County Judge Mark Chivorella maintained a policy of zero powers for juvenile crime. He'd run for office on a message of law and order. When Chivorella took the bench, he made good on his promise, sending minors to juvenile detention at a higher rate than almost any judge in the state. At the time, juvenile offenders in Luzern County were sent to an old and dilapidated facility. But Chivorella wasn't content with the status quo. So he teamed up with fellow judge Michael Conahan and together the two work to construct a new for-profit detention center called PA Childcare. By January of 2003, construction on the facility was nearly complete. And once the project was wrapped, each of the judges stood to gain nearly half a million dollars in finder's fees. But they had to make sure the detention center would be a success. And that meant finding some way to guarantee a steady stream of business. So Judge Conahan, in his role as president judge, signed a secret contract between the court and his own for-profit detention center. The agreement would send over $1.3 million every year to PA Childcare, a payment that effectively guaranteed the facility would have a steady stream of juvenile offenders. At the same time, Conahan's partner, Judge Mark Chivorella, doubled down on his policy of zero tolerance, sending more and more children to juvenile detention. But as Chivorella grew more punitive, local members of the community began to speak out. Parents, reporters, attorneys, and judges all began to wonder whether the court had grown corrupt, whether the county's children had become pawns in a larger scheme. This is Episode 2, the joke that landed a girl in jail. It's the spring of 2004 in the Luzern County Courthouse, and reporter Mike Guidesch is about to sit down for what could be a contentious interview. Guidesch covers education for the Times leader, a newspaper in Northeastern Pennsylvania. And recently, he was reporting on what should have been a sleepy affair, a meeting of the local school board. But halfway through the event, Guidesch heard something that made his ears perk up. A local mother began describing a shocking experience with the county's juvenile court system, one that led to what she thought was needless punishment. The woman's daughter, a 15-year-old named Lisa, had written a note about carrying a gun at school and shooting people in the kneecaps. It was meant to be a joke, and Lisa was hoping someone would stumble on the note and have a good laugh. But when someone did find the note, Lisa got in a world of trouble. She ended up getting suspended for three days. But Lisa's troubles didn't end there. She was arrested and jailed at P.A. Childcare, the nearby juvenile detention center. Lisa then had to go to court and face Judge Mark Chivarella. Lisa's case should have been fairly straightforward. She was a good kid, with a 3.8 GPA, involved in choir and science Olympiad she's never once been in trouble. But Chivarella didn't spend more than a few minutes on the case, before ordering Lisa to be placed in a wilderness camp for delinquents and giving her an indefinite sentence. That night at the school board meeting, Lisa's mother spoke of her horrors dealing with the local court system, trying to protect her daughter. And Guidesh felt shocked by the whole thing. His reporter's instincts also told him he had a story. So Guidesh began digging. And what he found not only confirmed the mother's specific complaints, it proved that Lisa had been victim to a breakdown in the larger system of juvenile justice. Guidesh decided to keep reporting the story to see what else he could find. And today Guidesh has come to the county courthouse to have a conversation with Judge Mark Chivarella. Partly, this is a matter of good journalistic practice, getting the judges' side of the story is important. But Guidesh is also curious whether he can get Chivarella to open up and admit some of the bigger problems with juvenile court. Guidesh steps into the county courthouse, an elaborate building with Greek columns and stained glass windows. And when he arrives at Chivarella's chambers, he finds the judge sitting behind his desk surrounded by a stack of legal files. Uh, Mr. Guidesh, is that time already? It is your honor. Are you still available for a quick interview? Well, yeah, as long as it's quick. I mean, look at all this. I've got a motion to smear, some motion for a change of venue, three motions to exclude evidence. No shortage of work around here. Well, so I've heard, and actually that's a big part of why I'm here. I was curious to learn a little more about your approach to dealing with all these juvenile cases. Well, yeah, I'm happy to answer questions. Where do you want to start? Guidesh takes out his notebook and flips through a couple of pages. Well, I thought we'd start with a case of a girl named Lisa. Now, her mother had some pretty critical remarks about your courtroom. Yeah, I remember that case. Her daughter, she's the one who threatened terrorism. Well, based on what I've heard, the girl Lisa, she said the whole thing was a prank. I don't call terrorism a prank. The girl left a note at school threatening to shoot young men and an e-caps. I'm going to take that very seriously. We can't afford another Columbine. Of course, but this girl doesn't exactly fit the profile. She's on the honor roll, well-liked, popular, and based on my reporting, there were character witnesses willing to speak on her behalf, but you didn't let them. Well, yeah, that's right. The probation officers do those kind of interviews before we get to court. Well, you're on a... I looked into that, and apparently no one in the court visited Lisa's home or even spoke with her family. It seems your probation officers didn't conduct any preliminary interviews. That's all? That's what I found. So, my question is, you've got a nice kid sitting in your court, a kid with a good GPA, no history of trouble. Why take her away from her family? What's the benefit? Well, Mr. Guiness, when you run a juvenile court like I do, you get to understand how kids were. And this behavior, a note, threatening violence, I saw as a cry for help, and I felt it was in her best interest to be put in a new environment. Well, you know, the mother says you just didn't take the time to understand the case. That the system chose to punish her instead of asking questions. Well, I gotta say, it sounds like you're blaming me for what the girl did at school. No, you're on her. That's not what I'm saying. I am trying to understand your philosophy. Well, my philosophy isn't complicated, Mr. Guiness. I have zero tolerance for crime. That's it. That's how you make kids feel the consequences of their decisions. But, but you're on. I'm gonna stop you there. It sounds like you might have an ulterior motive with this story. So, let's end the conversation, shall we? But before you go, I want to remind you, my approach has been embraced by the school district and the man and women who voted me into office. The same people who read your newspaper. So, when you go to write your story, you might want to spend a moment remembering who you're talking to. Guitis nods. He was hoping to get a little more from Chiverella before things went south. What this interview did confirm his hunch, Guitis just landed on a real story, about a local judge with an unyielding philosophy and the potential to destroy lives. It's September 2005 in Wilkesbury, Pennsylvania, and judge Jester Moroski is making his way through the county courthouse, getting ready for another meeting about Judge Mark Chiverella. Like Chiverella, Moroski is a local judge, and until recently he presided over the county's family court, a position he held for nearly 23 years. Moroski always felt passionate about the work. When children had to be placed in foster care, Moroski connected the parents to treatment programs and other resources, hoping the parents could one day reunite with their kids. The judge saw himself as an important link in the county's social services, someone who could use the power of the court to help residents lead better lives. But everything changed over the last couple of years. Moroski had shared a budget with Judge Mark Chiverella over in juvenile court, and more and more, Moroski found that the court's limited funds were being spent locking up minors instead of on social services. This was thanks to Mark Chiverella and his policy of zero-tolerance. But with the problem growing increasingly worse, Moroski decided to send a note to local elected leaders, detailing his concerns about Chiverella's punitive approach. Moroski thought he was doing the right thing, but three days later he got an unexpected response. Michael Conahan, the president judge of Luzern County Courts, and one of Chiverella's good friends, informed Moroski that he's being transferred out of family court. He was being demoted and reassigned to work in criminal court, slapping the face for a senior judge like Moroski. It didn't take a genius to understand the message. Anyone calling attention to Conahan's allied Chiverella would face swift and severe punishment. But the act of retribution only emboldened Moroski. He's been talking with his colleagues, and today he's going to test out a serious accusation that judges Mark Chiverella and Michael Conahan may be corrupt. A moment later Moroski arrives at the chambers of Judge and Lakuta and takes a seat in the leather armchair. Lakuta sets down our pen, gives Moroski a studious look before saying he seems troubled. What's on his mind? Moroski decides to ease into it, saying he's been thinking a lot about that series in the Times leader, the newspaper articles that looked at Chiverella and his high rates of juvenile detention. That report found that Chiverella's policy of zero tolerance had raised costs for the county 400% in only five years, and a reporter marked Guitish found instances when the judge placed minors in detention on seemingly insignificant charges. Moroski finishes his recap of the news reports and waits to get some initial reactions from Judge Lakuta. At first it's hard to tell where she stands on the matter. She says the stories have been out for a while. What's Moroski getting at? Well, he says something seems off, and Moroski is starting to wonder if Chiverella and Conahan might be breaking the law. Lakuta leans back in her chair with a look of concern. What could possibly lead him to suggest that his colleagues are criminals? Moroski admits he doesn't have hard evidence, but it makes sense when you add things up. Just recently, Moroski took a trip to Florida, decided to get a first-hand look at the vacation condo that Conahan and Chiverella owned together. He expected something nice, but when Moroski saw it for himself, he was floored. The judge's own illusory property. The views of the coast are magnificent. Whole complex is lined with expensive cars. And Moroski knows Conahan's wife comes from money. Conahan himself has some outside business ventures, but that's not the case with Judge Chiverella. So somehow, these two men might have gotten their hands on a lot of money. And it seems to point to that new juvenile detention center, P.A. Childcare. Chiverella has a staggering rate of incarceration, and if you acknowledge that some of his decisions just don't seem to make sense, the fact that he's sending away good kids, he realized there has to be another reason for the detention. It's possible that judges are getting kickbacks, Moroski says, a reward for keeping P.A. Childcare humming with juveniles. Look who to exhale and take it all in. Then she tells Moroski that, on its surface, the accusation seems a bit imaginative. But if there is any truth to it, Moroski has to remember that he's placing himself at risk. Judge Conahan is powerful and well connected. He's not the kind of person he wants as an enemy. So maybe instead, Moroski should bring these claims to the Judicial Conduct Review Board to see if there was any breach in professional ethics. Moroski nods, and he gets it. Lakuta doesn't have an appetite for rocking the boat, even if it's in service of doing the right thing. So he thanks Lakuta for hearing him out and takes his leave. His next move, though, will have to be talking with someone with power, with real organizational muscle. Someone who isn't afraid of Mark Chivarello and Michael Conahan. Not long after speaking with Judge Lakuta, Judge Chester Moroski walks over to the window of his chambers and looks out at the Susquehanna River. It's an overcast day in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and near the banks of the river, a flock of geese come flying down and land on the water with a gentle splash. It's a soothing image, but Moroski's reverie is interrupted when the phone rings. When he answers, he finds an FBI agent on the other end of the line. Moroski tenses up. He's been expecting this call for a while now. Conversation that could shake things up in Luzern County. By now, Moroski is all but certain that something is going on with his colleagues, Mark Chivarello and Michael Conahan, but he can't prove it definitively. He's trying talking to some of the other county judges, but everyone has the same advice. Moroski should keep his mouth shut and stop making accusations. But he hasn't been able to let it go. Not when so many kids are getting jailed for meaningless offenses. So Moroski reached out to the FBI. Now that they've called him back, Moroski begins laying out all his evidence against Chivarello and Conahan. But right away, he can tell the federal agent is skeptical and looking for hard evidence. Moroski admits what he's got is circumstantial, but it does point to one conclusion. The two judges are somehow making money from kickbacks, with Mark Chivarello placing large numbers of children in a for-profit detention center. The FBI agent admits the facts are interesting, but the conclusion is far-fetched. Moroski is describing a brazen scheme perpetrated by judges. It doesn't sound credible. Moroski admits in anywhere else other than Northeastern Pennsylvania, it would be hard to swallow. But here, half of everyone in the Luzurne County Court system are either a friend or relative of the two judges. That's why no one's speaking out. Even Michael Conahan's brother-in-law is on the payroll. He's a doctor who evaluates the kids being sent to PA Child Care. And Judge Chivarello sending kids away for even the most petty transgressions. He once even locked up a girl for getting in an argument with her grandmother. That kind of ruling doesn't make any sense unless you reframe it as part of some larger scheme. The FBI agent is silent for a moment as he mulls it all over. But then he repeats his story. There's a lot of interesting local color, but the idea of the two county judges are sending kids away to jail to try to make money just sounds preposterous. Moroski stifles a bitter laugh. He expected more from the FBI, but he can't force this guy to open an investigation. So he thanks the agent for his time and hangs up, feeling tired and defeated. Moroski has done everything he can, and he has to believe that someday these two judges are going to get caught whenever crimes are committed. But in the meantime, Moroski is left with only a sliver of hope. That people will start talking, and that Mark Shaborella will start showing a little mercy on the children of Luzer and County. There's nothing like getting lost in a great story, but sometimes we just don't have the time or energy to read. With the audible app, you can take stories from across every genre with you wherever you go. They even offer guided wellness programs, theatrical performances, and a plethora of exciting original content. Next on my to listen list is The Sandman, based on the riveting DC comic series of the same name about an immortal king who's imprisoned on Earth. It features familiar voices like Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, and Andy Circus, plus a score by award-winning composer James Hannigan. I'm so excited to get started on this one. As a member, you'll have access to Audible's Evergrowing Library, which features thousands of titles. You even get to keep one of your favorite titles from the entire catalog every single month, including the latest best sellers and new releases. New members can try out able free for 30 days. Visit slash wonderrypod, or text wonderrypod to 500-500 to try audible for free for 30 days. That's W-O-N-D-E-R-Y-P-O-D. slash wonderrypod, or text wonderrypod to 500-500 to try audible for free for 30 days. American scandal is sponsored by Audible. I was just thinking about books that made an impact on me. Do you know Wallace Stegner? I can't remember how I first found his work. Was it his debut novel remembering laughter? Or the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angle of Repose? Or maybe his final novel, Crossing to Safety? If you don't know Wallace Stegner, but you have felt love, or jealousy, or fear, or ambition, or regret, then you should get to know his books. So if you've got some travel planned or just long walks, let me suggest you listen to Stegner's works with Audible. They're among the thousands of titles available on Audible, and like all Audible members, I get one credit every month. Good for any title in the entire premium selection, regardless of price to keep forever, giving me full access to all the best sellers, new releases, audible originals, and more. And the Audible app makes it easy to listen anytime anywhere, while doing chores, while exercising, or anytime, you need to be moved and inspired by the Dean of Western Writers, Wallace Stegner. Get listening. New members can try Audible free for 30 days. Visit slash AS, or text AS to 500-500. It's January 2007 and a bitter cold evening in Whitehaven, Pennsylvania. O'Reene transsu steps through the doorway of her two-story suburban home, brushes off a light dusting of snow. She kicks off her boots, and sets her coat in the closet. And as she steps into the living room, O'Reene calls out her 14-year-old daughter Hilary, letting her know she's home from work. It's been a long day for O'Reene. She's a veteran social worker, and has just taught a six-hour class designed to help welfare recipients build new careers. And as soon as the class was over, she hopped in her car and had to drive 30 miles back home. Now that she's here, O'Reene wants to do his collapse on the couch and kick up her feet. But the day has gotten late, so first things first. It's time to whip up a quick dinner. O'Reene begins taking out pots and pans and grabs a few ingredients from the fridge. She's about to start in with the veggies when suddenly her cell phone rings. O'Reene almost ignores it. It's probably some telemarketer, but her curiosity gets the best of her, and she answers the call. Hello. Am I speaking with O'Reene transsu? Yes, this is she who's calling. I'm an officer with the right town, she's a police department. I need to have a word with you. Okay, is something wrong? Miss Transu, this is about your daughter Hilary. Apparently she wrote something on MySpace, that website. Yeah, yeah, I know all about MySpace. What happened though? What is this about? Well, it seems Hilary wrote some foul and disgusting things about her school's assistant principal. Some things we're going to have to talk about. I'm sorry. Is this some kind of joke? What are the police doing reading a teenage girl's MySpace? Miss Transu, you need to listen closely. I am on my way to the house, and when I arrive, I'm going to arrest Hilary on charges of terrorism and stalking on the internet. What? What are you talking about? I said I'm coming to the house. No, terrorism. Stalking? My daughter's just a kid. Please tell me you're joking. Miss Transu, this is not a joke. I'll be out the house soon. The officer hangs up and Lorine sets down her phone, running a hand through her dark blonde hair. That was one of the most surreal phone calls she's ever received. Sure, Hilary has moments of teenage rebellion. She's dyed her hair black and pink, and more than one she's been called the Queen of Sarcasm. But she's just a teenager. That's what teenagers do. Her daughter is not some kind of terrorist. Still, whatever happened, Lorine is going to have to get answers fast before that police officer arrives at the house. A minute later, Lorine calls up the stairs asking her daughter Hilary to come down for a talk. There's the soft, powder-a-foot steps, and then the 14-year-old comes down the stairs. But as soon as Hilary sees her mother's dour expression, she asks what's going on. Lorine says she just got a call from a police officer. He's apparently coming over to a rest Hilary for a recent post on MySpace, the one about her assistant principal. Hilary laughs and says that's insane. All she did was make a fake account. It was a big joke. She was pretending to be her assistant principal and created a ridiculous alter ego, making the school administrator look like a Satan worshipper and a Nazi and an unhinged fan of Johnny Depp. It was all satire. She even wrote a disclaimer at the bottom, saying she hoped the assistant principal had a sense of humor. Lorine lowers her head. She believes her daughter. This sounds just like another of her teenage jokes. So she doesn't understand why an officer is saying he's about to arrest her daughter for something so benign. But all that matters now is making sure nothing happens to Hilary. So Lorine takes out her phone and calls her own mother to see if she knows any good attorneys. But after explaining the situation, Lorine's mom tells her she's overacting. She doesn't need a lawyer. She should just call back the officer and try to cooperate. Lorine is herself an experienced social worker and knows that legal counsel is crucial when you're dealing with the police, but she supposes her mother is right. So she calls the officer and tries to take a cooperative stance. But the conversation quickly grows heated. The officer tells Lorine that the school is trying to make an example out of her daughter. The administration does not want other kids pulling the same kind of stunt. Lorine says she understands, but it's extreme to charge a teenage girl with terrorism just because she made a joke on the internet. Finally, Lorine seems to break through. The tenor of the conversation changes. The officer tells Lorine that if she remains cooperative and leaves the attorneys out of this, he'll only charge Hilary with harassment. She'll probably just get community service and maybe a period of probation. Lorine takes a moment to consider this. All she wants is the best thing for her daughter and if that means not hiring a lawyer, then she's willing to go along. So she gives in and says they'll cooperate and keep the simple. As long as that means the whole ordeal will be soon behind them. Three months later, Lorine transsoo makes her way through the Luzern County Courthouse with her daughter Hilary walking beside her. Lorine steals a quick glance at her daughter, trying not to make her feel self-conscious. Hilary is wearing a gray pantsuit and a blouse that Lorine loaned her for the day. She looks good, like a respectable young woman, exactly the kind of image they're trying to convey for today's hearing in juvenile court. As promised, Hilary was not charged with terrorism for writing a satirical post on Lyspace, and Lorine kept up her end of the deal, agreeing to come to court without a lawyer. It felt risky, but Lorine also doesn't believe anyone would send Hilary away for what was basically an off-color joke. Soon Lorine and Hilary make their way into the courtroom. It's an intimidating space with high ceilings and an air formality. It's not a natural habitat for a teenage girl and Lorine can tell her daughter is feeling anxious. So she grabs hold of her daughter's hand, trying to comfort her. The two approach the defense table and take a seat. Soon Judge Mark Chivarella begins the hearing. Lorine was expecting at least a trace of kindness or generosity, the kind of qualities you'd expect from a judge dealing with children. But as soon as he calls the hearing to order, Chivarella scowls at Hilary and almost yells at her, asking what makes her think she can get away with this? Lorine scams the room, seeing if anyone else is watching this. The judge doesn't even begin with introductions or greetings, just aggression. And it appears to be having its effect. Hilary looks to the ground and her voice trembles as she mumbles her responses. Chivarella scoffs and asks how she pleads to the charge of harassment. Hilary tells Chivarella she pleads guilty. Chivarella continues asking why she created that MySpace post in the first place. Hilary says she doesn't really know. She doesn't have a rational explanation. And she admits she didn't take into consideration that her assistant principal was a person, and not just an anonymous school administrator. Lorine nods along. Her daughter is acknowledging her wrongdoing, and that's good. But Chivarella doesn't seem moved by the show of remorse. And then he asks Hilary if she remembers what he said when he spoke at her school assembly. Hilary says she doesn't. Chivarella barks at her again asking if she was asleep. Hilary looks frightened and says she doesn't have an answer. But that only makes Chivarella even angrier. He tells Hilary, I didn't walk into that school and I didn't speak to that student body just to scare you, just to blow smoke. Then Chivarella tells Hilary, I'm a man of my word. You're gone. Chivarella announces her punishment, saying he sending Hilary to a wilderness camp and she can stay there until she figures herself out. Hilary turns to her mother's stun. Lorine doesn't know what to say. Hilary was supposed to get probation at worst community service they were told. No one said anything about being sent away from home. And before Lorine can process what's happening, Hilary is led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. Immediately Lorine feels her legs go weak. She collapses onto her knees, sobbing, and starts begging Chivarella to change his mind. She even offers to take her daughter's place. But Chivarella ignores her and then the bailess threaten to throw her in jail or a psych ward if she doesn't quiet down. The cruel threats have their desired effect. Lorine stops begging for the judge's leniency and somehow manages to pull herself together and stand up again. But as she lumbers out of the courtroom, Lorine's shock and sorrow begins to morph into indignation and fury. In all her years working with kids, she's never seen such blatant injustice. She can't imagine this is the first time Judge Chivarella has treated a child with such contempt. It's a shock to the conscience. And Judge Chivarella might have thought he could get away with this, but he has miscalculated. Lorine is going to start making calls to the ACLU to the public defender's office, whoever elected official in Pennsylvania. And she's going to start spreading the word about what's happening in Luzerne County. She won't quit, she won't relent, until Judge Mark Chivarella faces a public recommend. Do you want a straighter smile without ever needing to enter a dental office? It sounds impossible, but with bite, you can transform your teeth entirely from the comfort of your own home. Bite offers clear liners that are doctor-directed and delivered straight to your doorstep. 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The other lawyer arguing his case in front of Chivarella is making some straightforward points about his client. An in turn, Chivarella seems poised and focused, a model judge in juvenile court. It's been like this all afternoon. In every hearing, Chivarella has been diligently following court procedure and giving out fair sentences to the miners appearing before him. He's doing a good job of listening and asking questions. And Chivarella has been striking, respectful, and conciliatory tone. And that's why Miller Wilson is feeling so confused. When he stepped foot in this courtroom, he was expecting to find a much different judge Chivarella. Miller Wilson is no stranger himself to the Nightmares of Juvenile Court. He works as a staff attorney at the Juvenile Law Center, a nonprofit based out of Philadelphia. His organization does a lot of work on public policy and advocacy, with the goal of addressing systemic problems with America's juvenile justice system. And last month, his organization received a distressing voicemail, explaining that judge Chivarella had given a horrifying punishment to a girl named Hillary Transso. The teenager was only guilty of making a satirical post on MySpace, but Chivarella had pulled her out of her home, sending her to a wilderness camp to teach her a lesson. Miller Wilson got in touch with Hillary's mother, Lorraine. And when the two spoke on the phone, Lorraine nearly broke down, explaining how Chivarella had sent away her daughter, a good kid who's never been in any real trouble. So hearing the story, Miller Wilson quickly agreed to represent Hillary and began working on the case. The picture only grew more upsetting when Miller Wilson began reviewing the files. The court transcript was less than 350 words long. It appeared that judge Chivarella had only given Hillary a few minutes of his time before tearing her away from her family and completely upending her life. But even more disturbing was Chivarella's flagrant disregard of the law. According to the transcript, the judge failed to recite a speech required in all juvenile court hearings, one that explains that minors have a legal right to an attorney, and that there are consequences to pleading guilty and waving the right to a trial. But Chivarella hadn't given that explanation to Hillary. Instead, he set her away in shackles without even ruling how long she would be separated from her family. As a legal manner, it was pretty cut and dry. Miller Wilson filed a petition challenging Hillary's conviction. In earlier today, Judge Chivarella reversed her guilty verdict. But setting her free, couldn't fix the damage that had already been done. At this point, the eighth grader had been separated from her family for nearly three weeks. While he's glad he could at least secure Hillary's freedom, Miller Wilson wasn't ready to call it quits. It's his job to root out systemic problems with America's juvenile justice system. By the looks of it, Judge March Chivarella was potentially damaging an entire region. So after wrapping up the hearing about Hillary transso, Miller Wilson asked permission to stay in Chivarella's court. He was curious to spend some time watching to see whether Hillary's case was a kind of aberration. Chivarella looked annoyed by the request, but he allowed it, and now Miller Wilson has been observing the courtroom throughout the day. And so far, Chivarella seems to be doing everything by the books. Of course, the judge knows he's being watched, and he could just be putting on a show. So after a while, Miller Wilson decides it's time to get up, stretch his legs, and maybe see if anyone in the courthouse has something interesting to say. In the hallway, Miller Wilson spots an assistant public defender coming out of Chivarella's courtroom. He represented a few juveniles in court, and spent a good amount of time dealing with the judge. And as a public defender, this probably isn't the first time in front of Chivarella. So Miller Wilson approaches and asks whether this was a normal day. The defense attorney smiles, shakes his head, and says, no, not at all. Miller Wilson can feel it. He's on to something. So he asks the public defender, what's different? The attorney looks hesitant to speak, though. He checks his watch and tells Miller Wilson, he's sorry, he has to get back into court for another hearing. But he will say this, judge Chivarella is acting much different than usual. Miller Wilson nods, this is probably all he can get, at least today. So he thanks the public defender, and wishes him good luck in court. A minute later, Miller Wilson looks at his own watch, checking the time. The day's gotten late, and he can tell there's no use staying for the remaining hearings. Chivarella must be on especially good behavior if he's getting that kind of reaction from regulars. Miller Wilson thinks it's proof that he isn't getting an accurate picture of the judge. So he begins planning next steps. Miller Wilson is going to try to learn more about judge Mark Chivarella, and he's going to have to return another day. But make sure Chivarella doesn't know he's coming. Four months later, LeVall Miller Wilson stands leaning against a marble pillar outside the Luzern County Juvenile courtroom. He buries his nose in a file folder, trying to avoid the curious gaze of a passing court employee. After the man walks by, Miller Wilson shakes his head grinning. It's kind of fun pretending to be a spy. When the employee is out of sight, Miller Wilson lowers the folder and turns back to Mark Chivarella's courtroom, where the judge is issuing a series of severe punishments. And this is exactly why Miller Wilson returned to the courthouse. He wanted to see the real Mark Chivarella. The unadorned, unfiltered version of the judge he'd heard about from Hillary Transu. It's not that Miller Wilson doubted his clients. In the last few months, Miller Wilson has gathered more heartbreaking stories about Judge Chivarella. He spoke to one of Hillary Transu's newest friends, a girl she met in Wilderness Camp. Jessica Van Rief had been sentenced by Chivarella after being caught with a lighter and a pipe and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. After listening to Van Rief's story, Miller Wilson began to see the pattern. Both girls committed minor offenses and neither had ever been in trouble before. They both appeared in court without a lawyer and Judge Chivarella did not give either child the mandatory speech, confirming they were knowingly, voluntarily waving the right to an attorney. Miller Wilson and his colleagues could tell that he was on to something. So he began to look at state and county data. What he found was shocking. In 2004, if you looked at the entire state of Pennsylvania, only about 5% of juvenile defendants waived their right to have an attorney. But in Luzurren County, that number was 10 times higher, 50.2%. It also turned out that Judge Chivarella was locking kids up at a breathtaking rate, two and a half times, the state average. It all painted a picture of a courtroom where children were denied their legal right to an attorney and then were punished, sent to juvenile detention, when they couldn't defend themselves against an adult judge. Still, Miller Wilson has been wondering how all this is actually played out on the ground. So he figured he could probably find the answer if he came back to the Luzurren County Courthouse and tried talking to some of the families coming out of Chivarella's courtroom. Miller Wilson is standing outside the courtroom, trying to keep a low profile. When the doors fly open and a middle-aged woman comes racing out her face, streaked with tears. Ma'am, excuse me, Ma'am, can I speak with you for a moment? It's not a good time. I understand that, but I wouldn't ask if it weren't important. What do you want? Did your child just appear in front of Judge Chivarella? I'm sorry, who are you? My name's Laval Miller Wilson. I'm a public interest lawyer. I work with kids dealing with people like Judge Chivarella. I just want to know, when your child went in front of him, did they have an attorney? No, it was just me. Are you aware that the state would provide your child with a public defender if you don't have the money for a lawyer? I don't know, but it's a little late now. Miller Wilson points across the hallway. There's a court employee stationed at a desk handing out forms to children about to face Judge Chivarella. You see that gentleman over there? Did you speak to him? Yeah, he gave us this document we had to sign. What kind of document? I don't know. Something about we didn't have a lawyer for my son. All right, and when you were in court, did Judge Chivarella ask your child about waving their right to counsel? Sir, they just hauled away my boy in handcuffs. I can't process what you're asking me. I gotta go. Okay, and I understand. Look, before you go, here's my car. Call me. Okay? If you ever need some help, or just want to talk about what happened today. The woman thanks Miller Wilson and grabs the court. Then she hurries away as a fresh wave of tears begins streaking her face. It's always devastating seeing a parent grappling with the incarceration of one of their children. Based on everything Miller Wilson has gathered, this kind of grief has become an epidemic in Luzerin County. But now that he's seen it in person, Miller Wilson is finally getting a clear picture about what's happening. It's a one-two punch. Court employees are asking minors to sign a form before they step into Chivarella's courtroom. The kids don't realize it, but by signing the form, they're waving their legal right to an attorney. At the same time, Judge Chivarella isn't informing juvenile defendants about their fundamental legal rights, explaining that they don't have to defend themselves. Add it all up, and it makes sense that Luzerin County has such an enormous rate of juvenile detention. It almost seems like it's by design. But that's the part Miller Wilson can't figure out. Why would a judge be so hell-bent on putting kids in detention? Miller Wilson can't yet put together pieces, but he knows there has to be an explanation, something no one's talking about. There may be even a crime taking place. But whatever the reason may be, Miller Wilson is going to get some answers, and that might mean taking on a judge and his powerful allies. From wondering, this is episode two of the Kids for Cash Kick-Backs Game for American Scandal. In our next episode, the FBI begins investigating Mark Chivarella, and with pressure mounting, Chivarella and Michael Conahan plot to keep their crimes on her rafts. Hey, prime members, you can listen to American Scandal add-free on Amazon Music, download the Amazon Music Cap today, or you can listen add-free with Wondery Plus and Apple Podcasts. Before you go, tell us about yourself by completing a short survey at If you'd like to learn more about the Kids for Cash scheme, we recommend the book Kids for Cash, Two Judges, Thousands of Children, and a $2.8 million Kick-Back scheme by William Eckenbacher, and a documentary Kids for Cash directed by Robert May. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized detail. While in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American Scandal has hosted edited and exeked produced by me, Lindsey Graham, or Airship. Audio editing by Christian Faraga, sound design by Molly Bach, music by Lindsey Graham. This episode is written by Vanessa Gomez, edited by Christina Mollsberg. Our consultant for this series is William Eckenbacher. Our senior producer is Kate Ribbon, exeked producers, Stephanie Jens, Jenny Lauertbeckman, Marshall Louis for Wonderland. Not every billionaire has the stamina, the dedication, the fire, to become the most unpopular owner in sports. But not everyone's James Dolan, the dreaded owner of the New York News. Introducing Rain of Error, a new podcast series that gives you court side seats for the bench clearing free for all of controversies and scandals that JD has brought on. Are you embarrassed by this? I say, we're all embarrassed. Yes. Here's a guy who inherited a fortune and a basketball team. I mean he could be playing golf. Instead, he's made it as hobby to consistently mismanage one of the most beloved franchises in sports. Along the way, Dolan battles his own players, fans, celebrities, the media, politicians, even the Girl Scouts. Absolutely shocking. I'm David Green. Join me for Rain of Error as we ask the $6 billion question why doesn't he just sell the team? Follow Rain of Error wherever you get your podcasts. You can listen early and add free on the Amazon Music or OneDriap.