Kulick in 1988
One is doing time and another is facing a prison sentence, but the two convicted felons known to one another disputed their roles in the alleged fixing of cases in Luzerne County by judges Mark A. Ciavarella and Michael T. Conahan.
Robert Kulick, awaiting sentencing on a weapons charge, said William D’Elia, a reputed mob boss, told him a lawsuit would have a positive outcome for a close associate, Thomas Joseph.
Not so, D’Elia said through his attorney Friday.
The dispute could play out in an appeal of $3.5 million defamation verdict against the Citizens’ Voice that rests heavily on Kulick’s words. It adds yet another twist to the ongoing public corruption probe in county court that has led to charges against four people, including the judges.
“On several occasions, D’Elia told me that he had discussed the case with Judge Conahan, that Judge Conahan had told him he had discussed the case with Judge Ciavarella, and that the outcome of that case was going to be positive for Joseph,” Kulick said in a signed declaration provided to the newspaper’s attorneys.
Joseph sued the paper in 2002 after it printed stories that he said falsely tied him to a money-laundering investigation that involved D’Elia. Federal authorities conducted a number of searches in 2001 at the residences of D’Elia, Joseph and others. No charges were filed against Joseph.
Ciavarella returned the verdict in favor of Joseph. Conahan reportedly met regularly with Kulick and D’Elia for breakfast and discussed pending cases. The judges pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges for their roles in a $2.6 million kickback scheme involving the construction of juvenile detention centers and placement of children in the facilities.
The paper’s attorneys asked the state Supreme Court to vacate the verdict based on the new information it obtained in the aftermath of charges filed against the judges. They claimed that after a review of 4,600 disposed cases the Joseph proceeding was the only one Conahan and former court administrator William Sharkey assigned.
Sharkey, Conahan’s cousin, pleaded guilty earlier this month to stealing $70,000 in illegal gambling money that should have been turned over to the county treasurer. He is awaiting sentencing in federal court.
D’Elia’s attorney James Swetz said he received a statement from his client that contradicts Kulick’s declaration.
“I, in no way, was involved with the judges and the juvenile detention center and the Tommy Joseph lawsuit,” said D’Elia. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and attempted witness tampering and was sentenced in November to a nine year federal prison sentence.
One of the newspaper’s attorneys, Kevin Abbott, declined comment, as did Philip Gelso, who represents Conahan.
Attorney Michael Schwartz acknowledged Kulick was talking. His sentencing in federal court on his guilty plea to a felon in possession of weapon was delayed to allow law enforcement agencies time to evaluate his statements to them. He served a prison sentence for income tax evasion more than 20 years ago.
“As we have stated in documents to the court, Mr. Kulick has fully accepted responsibility for the crimes with which he has been charged and has agreed to fully and completely cooperate with the government,” Schwartz said. “He has met with various law enforcement agencies and has given them his full cooperation and intends to do so.”
In his four-page statement to the paper’s attorneys, Kulick, 60 of Bear Creek Township described his relationship with Ciavarella as “primarily social.”
Kulick detailed his dealings with D’Elia and Conahan, saying they met approximately twice a week for breakfast at an unnamed Wilkes-Barre restaurant between 1999 and 2007. He recalled him and D’Elia visiting Conahan “in his chambers to discuss a case in which we were both interested prior to a hearing in that case.”
The meetings ended in 2007 when his wife, Michelle Mattioli-Kulick, received a grand jury subpoena regarding a letter of recommendation Conahan wrote in support of her application for an offshore, online casino application in Curacao.
The application is the subject of a lawsuit a federal judge ordered returned to county court in 2006.
To read the declaration provided by Robert Kulick visit www.times