Sensational headlines in the past decade from major media outlets showed that a terrible crime had taken place. Except for one thing:  They weren’t true.

Presumption of Guilt (Hybrid Global Publishing) is written by a former federal prosecutor, Lorna N. Graham, whose colleagues falsely accused an experienced judge of taking money to jail kids. Instead of scrutinizing these heinous allegations, national media reported them as facts, which spawned the notorious “kids for cash” scandal. The book exposes multiple failures in the nation’s legal system and demonstrates the need to hold public officials and the media accountable.

Graham, who for 25 years worked as an Assistant United States Attorney in the same Pennsylvania office where the notorious “Kids for Cash” case was prosecuted, offers many insights on the nation’s legal system and makes a strong case for legal reform, based on years of painstaking research, interviews, and firsthand knowledge of the events.

Graham puts the justice system on trial and re-litigates the shocking case that left us without a hero. Her book focuses on a case from a decade ago, where a respected juvenile court judge admitted to committing fraud when he failed to properly account for millions of dollars in jail-building referral fees.  But prosecutors then made allegations that the judge purposely jailed defendants in exchange for that. Widespread hysterics results and though the prosecutor never provides evidence to support such claims, and the judge is not convicted of those charges, his sentence was meted out as if he had done what was never proven.

“Prosecution of Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. was the product of a perfect storm involving: a corrupt juvenile judge, overly zealous, publicity-hungry federal prosecutors, juvenile delinquents and their parents desperate to blame someone else, media more intent on making a profit based on unproven, scandalous allegations than investigating their veracity, and public officials who took drastic measures to distance themselves from the scandal rather than go against the tidal wave of public outcry,” asserts Graham.

“What follows is the story of the notorious, but still unproven, kids-for-cash scandal, which presumed Ciavarella’s guilt of taking money in exchange for incarcerating juveniles.”

Graham provides critical facts and raises interesting questions to explore how a juvenile justice system completely failed everyone involved, and why public confidence in the administration of justice is lacking.

“When prosecutors and judges, servants of the high calling of the pursuit of justice, divert their energies to improper ends, we all suffer the consequences,” says Graham.  “This case was an assault on the very rule of law – not only on the part of actions taken by Judge Ciavarella, but by the prosecutor and judge in the case against him.”

She adds, “I witnessed my colleagues engage in flagrant acts of prosecutorial misconduct that caused a public hysteria not seen since the Salem witch trials. A county juvenile judge admitted he committed fraud by concealing his receipt of millions of dollars in referral fees, but was railroaded by a publicity-hungry federal prosecutor who blindsided him with false accusations that he took the money in exchange for jailing kids.”

“National media pounced on these allegations with a tsunami of diatribes denouncing the notorious ‘kids for cash’ judge.  The presumption of guilt was palpable.  Media refused to question the prosecutor’s accusations; the ‘kids for cash’ scandal was too profitable to be denied, despite the judge’s desperate cries of innocence.”

“Without proof of the man’s guilt, public officials went on a rampage to distance themselves from his presumed acts of depravity. Tragically, thousands of crimes committed by juvenile delinquents were irrevocably dismissed, leaving their victims petrified their offenders would attack them again and betrayed by the criminal justice system. Trapped by frenzy, the judge was sentenced to spend 28 years in jail for crimes he did not commit.”

The “kids for cash” scandal continues to be the focus of intense national interest.  The New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Huffington Post, New York Post, CNN, FOX, CBS, NBC, ABC and other national news organizations covered it extensively. None of these reports recognized what Graham’s book proves: that the scandal was a complete hoax based on the false accusations of an overly zealous prosecutor.

Presumption of Guilt is available May 15.


About Lorna N. Graham

Lorna N. Graham served for a quarter-century as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, from 1988-2014, including a 15-year stint as the Chief of Appeals. Prior to her federal government job, she was a litigation associate for Pollner, Mezan, New York City, as well as at Kaufman, Malchman & Kirby, and Shebar, Pomerantz& Slotnick. Graham also served as an Assistant District Attorney in Nassau County for four years, in Long Island, New York. She earned a law degree from University of Bridgeport School of Law (now Quinnipiac University School of Law), a Masters of Laws, specializing in Taxation from New York University School of Law, and a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and in Chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Graham resides in Shavertown, PA.