Attorney Jill Moran told a Pennsylvania federal jury how she watched in shock as her boss Robert Powell, cursing and muttering, stuffed wads of cash into a FedEx box that he wanted her to hand-deliver to the president judge of Luzerne County, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. “These greedy [expletives] won’t let me go,” Powell said, his hands full of $100 and $50 bills. “Take this to them, and hopefully it will be over.” The money was the last payment in about $2.9 million that federal prosecutors say was given to two county judges, Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella, in a “kids for cash” scandal that ranks as one of most serious recent acts of judicial wrongdoing in the nation.
Moran and Powell delivered a graphic account of the judges’ alleged original conspiracy and failed cover-up. In a brazen scheme, authorities say, two detention centers owned by Powell were filled with thousands of youngsters deemed delinquent by Ciavarella, the county’s lone juvenile court judge. Providing detail that did much to fill out the bloodless accounts in indictments and guilty-plea agreements, Moran and Powell talked of lawbreaking that went on for years and of scheming that traded on the circumstances of troubled children. As the star witness in the unfolding federal trial against Ciavarella – Conahan pleaded guilty last year, Powell said the judges had extorted the millions from him and a business associate in return for making sure that $30 million in taxpayer money flowed over five years to his two juvenile-detention centers.