The Associated Press - February 28, 2011
Sandy Fonzo hadn't planned on confronting the Pennsylvania judge whom she blames for robbing her late son of his chance at a happy, productive life. Her emotional, obscenity-laced outburst last week - caught on video and spread over the Internet - has come to symbolize the anger felt by parents whose children were railroaded by Mark Ciavarella, the former Luzerne County judge convicted Friday of racketeering in a $2.8 million "kids for cash" plot to send youth offenders to for-profit detention centers. Fonzo's son was 17 and an all-star wrestler with a chance at a college scholarship when he landed in Ciavarella's courtroom on a minor drug paraphernalia charge. Though the teen, Edward Kenzakoski, had no prior criminal record, he spent months at the private lockups and a wilderness camp and missed his senior year of high school. Kenzakoski emerged an angry, bitter and depressed young man. He committed suicide last June at the age of 23. "He was just never the same. He couldn't recover," Fonzo said Tuesday. "He wanted to go on with his life, but he was just hurt. He was affected so deeply, more than anyone knew." Fonzo was at work Friday when friends started texting her about the verdict in Ciavarella's federal racketeering trial - guilty on 12 of 39 counts. She rushed to the courthouse because she had heard that Ciavarella was going to be taken out in handcuffs. Instead, the disgraced judge was allowed to remain free pending sentencing. Ciavarella and his lawyers walked out onto the courthouse steps on a brilliant, unseasonably warm day and declared victory. "He never took a kickback, he never took a bribe. ... This is not a 'cash for kids' case, and we hope that someone starts getting the message," said Ciavarella's attorney, Al Flora, referring to the fact that jurors had acquitted his client of many of the charges. Fonzo, who had been standing in the media scrum, lost it. "My kid's not here anymore!" she screamed. "He's dead! Because of him! He ruined my ... life! I'd like him to go to hell and rot there forever! Do you remember me? Do you remember me? Do you remember my son, an all-star wrestler? He's gone. He shot himself in the heart. You scumbag!"