SCRANTON ‚?? Former Luzerne County Judge Michael Conahan has filed court papers that seek to vacate his sentence should a federal appellate court reviewing his co-defendant‚??s case determine Judge Edwin Kosik should have recused himself.
Conahan, acting as his own attorney, said he believes he‚??s entitled to a new sentencing hearing before a new judge should the Third Circuit Court of Appeals agree with former judge Mark Ciavarella that Kosik should have stepped aside.
Conahan and Ciavarella were charged in 2009 with illegally accepting money from the builder and developer of two juvenile detention centers the county utilized.
Conahan pleaded guilty to a single count of racketeering conspiracy and was sentenced in September 2011 to 17¬Ĺ years in prison. Ciavarella went to trial and was convicted of 12 counts, including racketeering and money laundering, in February 2011. He was later sentenced to 28 years in prison.
Ciavarella‚??s attorneys, Al Flora and William Ruzzo, recently filed legal briefs seeking to overturn his conviction and sentence, arguing Kosik should not have presided over the case because he showed an obvious bias toward Ciavarella.
The attorneys cited several questionable actions they believe Kosik took, including responding to letters written by several people seeking a stiff sentence for Ciavarella while his case was still pending.
In his motion filed in federal court, Conahan acknowledges he never asked Kosik to recuse himself. He said he did not do so because he ‚??always wanted to believe in the fairness, impartiality and lack of personal bias‚?Ě of a judge, and because he felt Kosik ‚??had shown him genuine personal concern.‚?Ě
‚??Unfortunately the sentence Conahan received is believed in large part to be based upon the court‚??s ultimate distaste, indeed, dislike, for the case and the co-defendant,‚?Ě Conahan wrote. ‚??The court‚??s animus toward the case and co-defendant, we submit, was difficult to put aside in passing sentence upon Conahan as well.‚?Ě
Conahan contends his failure to previously raise a recusal issue should not preclude him from doing so now.
‚??If the court of appeals determines the district court was wrong to retain the case as to one defendant, it would have been equally wrong to retain the case as to the other,‚?Ě Conahan says in the motion.
Conahan said he is filing the motion to preserve his rights should the appellate court rule in Ciavarella‚??s favor. He asks the court not to rule on the matter until after the Third Circuit Court rules on Ciavarella‚??s appeal.