Corruption in PA Courts: You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!


Judge C. Joseph Rehkamp (PA)

40% of the judges as well as the former presiding judge in Luzerne County, PA have left the bench amid corruption scandals:  

  • Judge Ann H. Lokuta was removed on December 9, 2008 by the state Supreme Court.
  • Judge Peter Paul Olszewski was kicked off the bench by the voters in November, 2009.
  • Judge Michael T. Toole resigned after pleading guilty on December 28, 2009 to federal corruption charges for concealing his free use of a beach house owned by an attorney who represented plaintffs in an underinsured motorist case as well as failing to report a $30,000 bribe from another attorney on his tax return.
  • Judge Mark A. Civarella, Jr. and former presiding Judge Michael T. Conahan plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks.  They will serve 87 months in prison.

The New York Times reported:    

Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for [two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care] to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to keep the centers filled. . .estimated 5,000 juveniles who have been sentenced by Judge Ciavarella since the scheme started in 2003.  Many of them were first-time offenders and some remain in detention.    

. . .Luzerne County, an area in northeastern Pennsylvania that has been battered by a loss of industrial jobs and the closing of most of its anthracite coal mines. . .    

With Judge Conahan serving as president judge in control of the budget and Judge Ciavarella overseeing the juvenile courts, they set the kick back scheme in motion in December 2002. . .shut down the county-run juvenile detention center. . .judges tried to conceal the kickbacks as payments to a company they control in Florida. . .    

Senior (retired) Judge C. Joseph Rehkamp was assigned to hear the cases left on Michael T. Toole’s docket.  Two are capital murder trials.  He was also assigned the case of a county commissioner:    

  • Donnell Bucker, 35, of Wilkes-Barre, is accused of fatally shooting his estranged wife in March.  The murder was witnessed by her three children ~ ages 9, 11, and 12.
  • Hugo Selenski is accused of strangling a pharmacist and his girlfriend and burying their bodies behind his Kingston Township home.
  • Former Cumberland County commissioner Bruce Barclay beat the rap of raping his roommate, William McCurdy, in April, 2008.  His defense was based on evidence from a hidden videotaping system.  Barclay was then charged with 13 counts of invasion of privacy. wiretapping, and promoting prostitution.

Judge Rehkamp Is Charged with Domestic Violence    

On January 16, Judge Rehkamp, 61, and his second wife Valerie, 50, went out to a couple of restaurants to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.  Valerie was the designated driver.  According to Mrs. Rehkamp’s request for protection from abuse (PFA), the good judge “became quite intoxicated. . .shouting the f-word and being obnoxious with the bartender and waitress.”  Mrs. Rehkamp told him he couldn’t stay at their home.  He called her an “ass—” and charged after her.    

The argument escalated about 8:34 PM.  The judge allegedly pushed his wife down, slamming her body into a chair before placing both hands around her neck and choking her.  The police report indicated she had red marks on her neck.    

Mrs. Rehkamp’s 18-year-old son Lee Elliott Egenlauf apparently stopped the attack.  The judge left ~ presumably still quite intoxicated ~ in his car.  The police were called.  A warrant was issued for the judge’s arrest on charges of simple assault and summary harassment.  If it had been an ordinary citizen, I’m fairly certain the charges might have been attempted murder.    

About 22 hours later, Judge Rehkamp turned himself in to the state police.  Mrs. Rehkamp requested a PFA.    

Rehkamp Suspended from the Bench    

On January 20, Senior Judge Carson V. Brown issued a temporary PFA barring the judge from contact with his wife or her two sons.    

Ronald D. Castille, the chief justice of the PA state supreme court, suspended Judge Rehkamp.  He hired criminal defense attorney William Costopoulos who told the Sentinel:    

My hope is that we can get Judge Rehkamp back on the bench in the near future.    

This is not a public corruption charge. . .I don’t believe that his credibility as a jurist has been forever damaged.  I happen to believe that on many levels it could make him a better person and a better judge. . .This ordeal has been very difficult for him to accept, and emotionally it has been pretty distressing. 

I’m dumfounded by his arrogant audacity.   

Costopoulos Pressures the Judge’s Wife to Drop Charges   

By January 29, Costopoulos had “persuaded” Mrs. Rehkamp to agree to postpone the court hearing on the PFA.  Her attorney, Kim Ann Giombetti, said she was focusing on rebuilding her life and filing for divorce.    

Two weeks later, it appeared the pressure was working.  Ms. Giombetti told the Sentinel the couple was considering “keeping the marriage intact.”    

“No Victim, no crime, the case is dismissed.”    

CitizensVoice.com reported today that Magisterial District Judge Donald L. Whittaker refused to allow Assistant District Attorney Nancy Violi to question Mrs. Rehkamp today:    

No victim, no crime, the case is dismissed.    

Costopoulos told the reporter that the couple has been discussing a financial arrangement under which she would drop criminal charges and they would ultimately move for a divorce.    

Rehkamp Failed to Pay Alimony to First Wife    

After a bitter divorce, in August, 2008, Rehkamp retired from his position as President of the 41st PA Judicial District (Juniata and Perry counties).  In court records, his ex-wife Kerry Ragette Rehkamp, claimed the judge had not made his monthly alimony payments of $3,200 since he retired.    

On October 27, 2009, Perry County Senior Judge Charles B. Smith ruled the judge will be required to pay his ex-wife about $1,750/month in alimony and $492.25 for health insurance plus $1,405 for her legal fees.  The monthly payments are to be deducted from his paycheck.  This is what courts typically do with deadbeats so their ex-spouses don’t end up being a drain on the welfare system.    

It seems his old buddies on the bench have Judge Rehkamp’s back.  No wonder his current wife caved.  I hope she will be safe.  

Acknowledgements and Full Disclosure:  Thanks to Proud Military Mom and Uppity Woman for the heads-up on this story which I initially thought was “just” about a corrupt judge who engaged in domestic violence behind closed doors.  I’ve seen more than my share of judicial corruption up-close-and-personal.  And, I’m stunned by the depth and breadth of the corruption in PA courts.  Despite the federal probe, the judge’s attorney had the audacity to tell a reporter that his goal was to get a corrupt judge back on the bench as quickly as possible!  In essence, he was “flipping the bird” at the prosecutors.  And, he was sending a clear message to the judge’s wife:  “don’t f*** with us.”   

During law school, I clerked for a custody judge in the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, IL (Chicago).  He shot himself the night before he was to be indicted in the federal corruption probe Operation Greylord for taking bribes when he was assigned to traffic court.  He was an ex-Marine who had a strange code of ethics.  After his death, I learned from someone who had been in his court for a DUI that the judge believed the drunk driving laws did little to curb drunk driving.  So, he set $10,000 “fines” (which were donated to charity) on the guys dumb enough to drive drunk.  My friend confessed that he never drove drunk again.  He admitted to me that it was an effective strategy. . .especially in Chicago. . .where the only real crimes were constructing an ugly building and parking in somebody else’s excavated parking space after a blizzard.  The cops investigated homocides and issued parking tickets.  Every other crime essentially went unprosecuted.   

Operation Greylord also caught in its net the presiding judge of the court’s most prestigious division.  I was devastated to discover ~ up-close-and-personal ~ that a judge I had deeply admired was corrupt.  He was eventually sentenced to hard time in a federal prison.  He had been DePaul University’s Law School’s most highly esteemed alum.  DePaul was the law school of choice for attorneys who aspired to be judges in Chicago.   

This was all the buzz at a law school alumni dinner in 1991.  The judge was a guest of a fellow alum.  Because he was from out-of-state, he didn’t get the nervous, Irish-style jokes.  I interpreted.  He said he loved cats which was magic to my ears, but it wasn’t as seductive as hearing that judicial corruption like Operation Greylord wouldn’t be tolerated in his state.  About 8 months later, he put a loaded gun to my head and said he could kill me “and get away with it.”  He wasn’t kidding around.  I got a restraining order.  Six years later, he was elected to his state’s supreme court on the platform that he had “extensive experience in family and child abuse.”  Right on, mister!  Hands-on experience.  So, I know what it is to go into court and know I’m not going to see justice.  I’ve been in a car while the judge drank martinis from a tumbler.  I’ve helped judges to their cars after dinner at our house because they were too drunk to walk by themselves.  These guys drove home down the freeway with impunity.  What cop would be dumb enough to arrest them? 

This is why I resigned from the practice of law in two states and started blogging.

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22 responses to “Corruption in PA Courts: You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!

  1. Pingback: Judicial Issues in Pennsylvania… since Luzerne Co. « Let'sGetHonestBlog·

  2. When states permit such offensive abuse of children as the one which became public in PA, it seems logical that the State cannot excuse itself any more than the Catholic Church can excuse itself from the effects of poor integrity and credibility.

    Just as the State of MS, or AR, (because of civil rights revolts), or TX, (because of the JFK assassination) are left with discriminatory effects, any state that permits the level of corruption exposed has lasting consequences for a State’s reputation. Without that natural consequence, there is no incentive for States to prevent corruption, and anything goes. Because these kinds of corrupt influences are never deemed secret but condoned, persons who inhabit governmental posts in such states place the entire credibility of the state at risk. Why should it be otherwise?

  3. those philly judges are second to none when it comes to corruption and misfeasance, though it could be they’re just not as good at keeping secrets as judges in other states….

  4. Victoria,

    Thanks for your comment. Quite frankly, I think everybody thinks their state has the worst judges. The more I hear about court corruption the more I’m starting to think there’s some serious competition going on to see which state can be worst of the worst.

    That’s why I decided it is time to shine a bright light on all of them. We the People deserve better. IMHO, justice should be blind. . .not stupid and corrupt.

    Sending hugs,
    Anne Caroline

  5. Update to the story, Turns out that Rehkamp’s divorce lawyer (Samuel L. Andes) in his first wife’s alimony case was appearing before him in one other divorce case (Diaz Flagg v. Flagg) when Rehkamp ruled in favor of the Husband (who you guessed it was represented by the judge’s own divorce lawyer). Check out the Carlisle Sentinel and Citizens Voice coverage on the issue. In early June 2010 Pennsylvania’s Superior Court in 436 MDA 2009 ruled that Rehkamp engaged in the appearance of impropriety sufficient to undermine the public’s confidence in the judiciary and removed him from hearing the Diaz Flagg case when it was remanded. Rehkamp also purchased a waterfront home in Florida with a boat dock while he claimed he could not pay the alimony requested by first wife. The only problem was that he denied having purchased any real estate or taking out any new mortgages when served with a discovery request by the first wife. It was later discovered that Rehkamp was faxing his purchase contract from the Perry County Courthouse’s fax machine just days before this discovery response and – you guessed it – he took out another mortgage. Of course this house is now in foreclosure in Florida.

    Rehkamp then tried to use an anger management class instead of a domestic violence class to get excused from an alternative probabtion program in the domestic violence case involving the second wife. Check out that coverage as well, The woman judge in that case sent him back to the drawing board and told him to complete the domestic violence program.

  6. The trouble just seems to get worse for the good judge and his lawyer. Mrs. Diaz Flagg has requested that the new judge appointed in her case award her thousands of dollars in legal fees from Samuel L. Andes and C. Joseph Rehkamp because they did not disclose their attorney client relationship. This caused her to needlessly spend legal fees on appeal to rectify Rehkamp’s decision in favor of Mr. Andes’s client when he simultaneously represented Mr. Flagg and Judge Rehkamp in both their divorces. Rehkamp has been sued for tens of thousands in unpaid credit card bills. Even the local Porsche dealer won’t return Rehkamp’s Porsche 911 convertible unless he pays an outstanding bill. Lets hope the new judge sends a message to Andes and Rehkamp and makes Mrs. Diaz Flagg whole for their actions.

  7. How about Family Court Judges that only listen to one side, allow the Plaintiff’s atty to stand there and let her buddy, the Defendant’s atty, make false allegation’s, defaming and slanderous remarks about the Plaintif, then give the Plaintiff restricted supervised vists? Now, keep in mind the Plaintiff has no criminal record, there is absolutely NO PROOF of the horrid allegations of physical assaults against the Defendants, nor is there proof of any of the other false allegations made against the Plaintiff. HOWEVER, the Plaintiff is waiting outside the courtroom with witnesses, police reports to prove that the Defendant physically assaulted the Plaintiff on more than one occasion, and that the other allegations made are nothing but trumped up tales fabricated by a delusional woman?
    The Plaintiff’s atty (remember, she is buddy’s with the Defendant’s atty) tells the Plaintiff that if she doesn’t take the “deal”, the judge will slap her with a PFA!!! Having no sophisticated knowledge of the law (at that time), the Plaintiff takes the deal in order to see her loved one!
    The story can keep going on and on…there really isn’t a happy ending in sight at this point. All we know is that not only has the Judge violated several Canon’s of the Judicial system, the Attorney’s were also in collusion.
    Wonderful PA….

  8. Ms. G,

    This is why people need to pay attention to who is on the bench. When judges who abuse those they profess to love behind closed doors, there will be no justice for any of us.

    Thanks for leaving your comment. I blow the whistle from time to time so that people know that it isn’t just them getting screwed by the system. If you haven’t visited Rights for Mothers (see my survivor blog roll), I highly recommend that site.

    Good luck and God bless,
    Anne Caroline

  9. I am the Grandmother is this case, Anne! And the victim of false allegations! In my opinion, this case was listened to ex parte, even though my attorney was present! We were denied due process of the law by being denied an evidentiary hearing, the right to tesitfy on our own behalf or have our witnesses tesify for us.! We were tried and “convicted”, sentenced to supervised visits without the benefit of being heard! Now, I am being denied those supervised visits and our hearing is one month away! If it were me that defied the court order, i would be held in contempt! But, I guess the third party, the facility that is to be conducting these visits, can just do as they please, simply because I wrote letters of complaint concerning their conduct? Where is the justice? Young, inexperienced girls running a facility that simply have no life experience, and cannot take a bit of constructive criticism are now denying me my COURT ORDERED visits!!!
    These behind closed door sessions between judges, facilitators, and yes, even unscrupulous attorneys need to stop! The ones that are really suffering in cases like ours are the children! I guess the other side seems to have forgotten the foacl point of this case and that IS the chldren! Instead, they are running amok, trying to ruin our lives, casting blame on us for things we have never done and shedding us in a bad light. And for what? To say “WE WON”? No, you didn’t! In the long run they will lose because Parential Alienation Syndrome is a serious thing and invariably those children that are affected by it will one day suffer the long term effect of it!

  10. Ms. G,

    It sounds like you are dealing with a whole lot of folks with narcissistic personality disorder ~ they can’t handle anything that remotely seems like criticism ~ they’re a notoriously vindictive lot.

    Sadly, I too don’t thrive with these kind of people ~ I haven’t got any magic answers or special wisdom for you. I can assure you that I feel your pain because I’ve been in similar circumstances many, many times. It’s really frustrating to be the only person in the room who appears to get the injustice going on. Actually, I think a lot of people get it. They’re just too chicken shit to say anything ~ they’re afraid they’ll be the next target.

    I also know how frustrating it can be to free ourselves from one abusive relationship only to find out that the people who are being PAID to help are just as bad ~ sometimes worse.

    Sending extra hugs,
    Anne Caroline

  11. Ms. G says:
    February 18, 2011 at 2:54 PM
    I married a lawyer. When I met him I had two homes, one paid for and another was a rental which was almost paid for. I had a great job. I was going to retire at 62. Judge Rehkamp was our judge in the divorce, a visiting judge, because my ex-husband’s boss was so politically connected. When this all came about with Rehkamp another judge came in. He was absolutely corrupt to the core of his soul. He was 70 years old and filthy dirty nasty. I was not notified of the change of judges. I had less than 24 hours to show up, unrepresented, for an equitable distribution hearing. Any woman listening to the tape of this SLAUGHTER OF MY LIFE, also known as equitable distribution, would absolutely freak out. The judge kept telling me to shut up. He wouldn’t listen to the last hearing by Judge Rehkamp who said that they were supposed to get me an attorney and he was supposed to pay for it and that I had gone so downhill emptionally and physically that he didn’t recognize me and that he didn’t want me back in court without an attorney. I walked out of that courtroom with NOTHING to my name. I can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that what happened that day, April 30th, 2010, that not only was this judge a friend of my husband’s friend, who is a judge, but I can prove the transcript was ALTERED. My job used to be a court stenographer for 26 years. It was all complelely IGNORED. Today I am disabled. I live in a dump and I cry and am distraught every day of my life and am filled with rage at the actual RAPE of me and my life, that happened by being married to a real low life who pranced into church every Sunday for 25 years. He sure fooled me. I am now 64 and am stuck. Can’t figure out how to start over at this point in my life. Yet, now my ex is in charge of a law firm, and he represents JUDGES, POLICE, AND COUNCIL PEOPLE, which he also did before. Now, let’s just figure out how many “friends” he had. Not to mention his judge friend from church which he knew for about 30 years. That same judge befriended me, and actually stole my furniture and gave me a phoney appraisal for a diamond ring. I can prove it. His name now is on the front of the police station in Upper Darby. The “befriending” was strictly to con me and help out his friend, my ex. He also told me he could pick up the phone and get anything he wanted. I was so innocent of all of this. Also, my lawyer left me unrepresented and I was handling all of this on my own because I couldn’t afford a lawyer. My lawyer was a friend of the judge that befriended me. The judge that befriended me from church actually took me to his office. It was all a set up. In the end when it was over this judge said to me, You’re one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and I know how you love God so much, but you have to learn to be a lot smarter about people because you’re an EASY MARK. TALK ABOUT RAPE!!!! There was NO ONE THERE TO HELP ME. Please get back with me. It’s beyond corruption that I had so much when I met this man and have ended up broke and broken. When I met him, he only had $30,000 in his bank account and was at the bottom of the barrel in his career. He also tried to do the same thing to his wife before but she put him in the basement after only eight months of marriage and said I’ve worked too hard for my money. PLEASE HELP ME!!!!! He learned from that marriage and was as smooth as silk with me. There are absolutely HORROR stories that I have to share about what I’ve endured at the hands of this sleezy lawyer that I married who seemed like such a nice guy. PLEASE HELP ME FIND A WAY TO GET BACK ON MY FEET AND MADE WHOLE FINALLY. I NEED JUSTICE MORE THAN I CAN EVER CONVEY TO YOU. No matter how hard I’ve tried MY LIFE IS RUINED. I HAVE NOTHING AND HE’S WAY BETTER THAN FINE. Thank you.

  12. Ms. G.,

    Been there. We are not alone, but we are very much on our own. I am sorry to hear you too have been screwed by a dysfunctional and highly corrupt system.

    That’s why I created this web site. It is loaded with everything I’ve learned about how to put the shattered pieces of our lives back together after experiencing horrific abuse. It isn’t easy, but it is possible. I read every memoir I can find about people who have survived abuse and have gone on to thrive and find joy.

    I deleted your follow-up comment because I have learned that it is futile to try to seek justice in a system that is corrupt to its core. If you were younger, it might make sense to band together with others who have been similarly screwed. But, this isn’t going to get you a different verdict or fund your golden years.

    You know what you’re going to have to do, and I don’t blame you one bit for being pissed. Yes, you need to vent your rage, but this isn’t the appropriate place to do it. Yes, it sucks at our age to start all over. We’re both running out of daylight in life and can’t afford to waste what little time we have left in being pissed off at people who, quite frankly, delight in our pain.

    Rage will eat us alive from the inside out. It saps us of the energy we need to move forward.

    The best revenge really is living a happy life. I know right now you’d probably like to smack me upside the head and might think I’m an insensitive bitch. I didn’t like hearing this anymore that you probably do, but it IS good advice. It isn’t fun. It isn’t easy. It is possible.

    Sending hugs and best wishes,
    Anne Caroline

  13. Latest on the saga.

    C. Joseph Rehkamp filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy claiming $900,000.00 in debts and $6,000.00 in assets.

    His creditors include the tax man, his local Porsche dealer and just about everyone who ever loaned him any money or extended him any credit including his divorce lawyer who is owed over $18,000.00 by the ex-judge,. Loyalty is just not rewarded like in the old days.

    His criminal defense counsel WIlliam Costopoulos is having his own difficulties in the Orie-Melvin corruption trial. The trial judge declared a mistrial when he declared that documents submitted by the Defense were clear forgeries that “Ray Charles could see were forgeries”. See the local press coverage in the Pittsburgh press for more details. Rumor has it that the U.S. Secret Service has been asked to examine the documents labeled by the trial judge to be forgeries. New trial starts Monday, April 11th.

    Stay tuned for more updates.

  14. When are the rights of men going to be addressed. My children have been alienated from me because of a mentally unstable controlling mother and the judge helped her. My Atty. at the time didn’t tell me about a PFA hearing and the judge left it on me for a year so I couldn’t see my children for a year and now gave mother control of who I see my children with. The mother told me no one will ever be allowed to see them because she is in control. My family doesn’t even want to be around my children because they are afraid that they will be lied about like I was by my sick x wife. These judges are suppose to be so intelligent????? My children are being stolen from a loving family and abused by my sick x wife and her family. Guess my x wife can keep dancing nude with my 7 year old son and that’s ok in Bradford County, PA….. No one will ever know anyway because the judge has denied my children proper counseling due to tha fact that if they are counseled and found that they are being mentally abused, these people helping her out are going to be sued big time….. I WILL EXPOSE THE CORRUPTION AND THE LIES IN THIS COUNTY !!!!!!!!! When is Bradford County , PA going to be investigated??????

  15. Latest. Well C. Joseph Rehkamp’s criminal lawyer William Costopolous has been handed two prangings this week. First the District Attorney in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) charged his client (Senator Orie) with prejury and forgery for documents which Wild Bill had waived about the courthouse on the same day the judge declared a mistrial when the forgeries were brought to the court’s attention. Remember this is the same lawyer who offered a financial deal to Rehkamp’s Wife No. 2 if she dropped charges while Rehkamp failed to pay Wife No. 1 her alimony. Hmmmm. forgery in Sen. Orie’s case and financial settlement in exchange for dropping charges in Rehkamp’s case…. anyone see a common theme. Second, the appellate court rejected Costopolous’ appeal of the mistrial in Sen. Orie’s case because he claimed it would be double jeopardy by describing it as completely frivolous. Allegheny DA says investigation is ongoing as to anyone who had custody of the forgeries. Any thoughts on who that might be. LOL. Play in the tall grass and you get ticks.

  16. After reading this “Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for [two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care] to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to keep the centers filled. . .estimated 5,000 juveniles who have been sentenced by Judge Ciavarella since the scheme started in 2003. Many of them were first-time offenders and some remain in detention” I believe the same stuff happened with Potter County Judge Lette. My son was taken from me because I wouldn’t make him stay after school for detention because he wasn’t keeping up with the class. He couldn’t, he had a learning disability. After he was put in the children’s home, “where the judge was chairman” he was molested and given drugs and alcohol. He was only 15, and it has destroyed his life.

  17. Shelon,

    The injustice you and your son have experienced fill me with a rage that words can’t begin to express. Where does he go to get his life back? Where does he go?

    Thank you for reminding me why I started this blog. This shit needs to stop.

    Wishing you peace,
    Anne Caroline

  18. Perry county court house is corrupt as can be someone need to get up there and clean it up its ridiculous

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