Last updated: February 15. 2013 5:38PM - 326 Views

Former Judge Mark Ciavarella leaves the federal courthouse in Scranton on Friday after being charged with 12 of 39 counts of corruption. (PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADER)
Former Judge Mark Ciavarella leaves the federal courthouse in Scranton on Friday after being charged with 12 of 39 counts of corruption. (PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADER)
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Terrie Morgan-Besecker

Former Judge Mark Ciavarella responds to questions along North Washington Avenue in Scranton after being found guilty of 12 of 39 counts. BILL TARUTIS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER

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Motion for new trial
Motion for acquittal

SCRANTON – SCRANTON – Attorneys for former judge Mark Ciavarella have filed motions asking a judge to acquit him of seven charges he was convicted of, or, in the alternative, to grant him a new trial.

The motions, filed this morning, allege U.S District Judge Edwin Kosik made several errors in admitting or barring evidence, and that several of the counts were not filed within the statute of limitations.

Ciavarella was convicted on Feb. 18 of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, money laundering, money laundering conspiracy and several counts of honest service fraud and tax evasion.

In the motion for acquittal, attorneys Al Flora and William Ruzzo argue that the statute of limitations had expired on the racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy counts related to both offenses.

According the motion, those charges relate to wire transfers totaling $997,000 that Robert Mericle made to Ciavarella and former judge Michael Conahan. The transfers were made in January 2003, but charges were not filed against the judges until January 2009, which is in violation of the five-year statute of limitations.

The attorneys also argue that evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support the jury’s verdict that Mericle’s payment constituted a bribe or kickback.

In the motion for a new trial, Flora and Ruzzo say that Mericle, who built the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care juvenile detention centers, testified unequivocally that the money was not a bribe or kickback, but a legal finders fee to reward Ciavarella for referring him to the projects.

The attorneys further argue that Ciavarella is entitled to a new trial because Kosik improperly prevented them from admitting a statement Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Zubrod made a Mericle’s guilty plea to charges related to the case. Zubrod had stated that Mericle’s payment was “not a bribe or kickback in any sense.”

Kosik also erred, the attorneys say, in refusing to recuse himself from presiding over the case, and by allowing the prosecution to present evidence regarding Ciavarella’s failure to recuse himself when he heard unrelated civil cases involving Mericle and Robert Powell, the owner of the juvenile centers at the center of the case.

Flora and Ruzzo have an additional 10 days to file a legal brief in support of their motions. The government will then be given an opportunity to respond before Kosik issues his ruling.

Should Kosik deny the motions, Ciavarella could appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
For the complete story read Saturday's Times Leader.

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