No drama outside courthouse as Mericle is sentenced

By Edward Lewis elewis@civitasmedia.com

April 25, 2014

SCRANTON — There were no crowds. No protesters or anyone holding signs directing Robert Mericle to burn in effigy. In fact, it was a mundane day at the William J. Nealon Federal Building on Friday.

While Mericle, Northeast Pennsylvania’s largest real estate commercial developer, was inside for his sentencing hearing, a few people casually walking past the federal building asked reporters what the media hoopla was about.

One of three young men all wearing Lackawanna College Police Academy sweatshirts asked, “Who is Rob Mericle?” when told about the proceeding.

A man changing light bulbs on the Scranton Electric sign on top of the Scranton Electric Building on Linden Street received more attention from the walking public than Mericle.

The gentle environment outside the federal building was a stark contrast to the jubilant scene when former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years in prison on Aug. 11, 2011.

Several dozen people who had gathered at the same building when Ciavarella was sentenced cheered U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith and chanted “kids for cash” as they heckled Ciavarella’s attorney, Al Flora.

Approximately 250 people turned out for Ciavarella’s sentencing while about 60 people showed up for Mericle’s day of punishment.

Mericle was sentenced to one year in prison to a federal charge of withholding information on a crime. He was accused of helping Ciavarella and former Luzerne County Judge Michael Conahan conceal the source of more than $2 million in “finder’s fees” Mericle paid to them in connection to the construction of two child care centers built by Mericle’s company.

“In the words of his lifelong friend Mark Ciavarella, (Mericle) needed to be held accountable for his actions,” said Sandy Fonzo, who attended Mericle’s sentencing hearing.

Fonzo, whose son, Edward Kenzakoski III, was imprisoned by Ciavarella, was thrust into the spotlight when she lashed out at Ciavarella after the former judge was convicted by a federal jury of corruption charges in 2011.