Judge Toole Charged with Fraud | News
Luzerne County Judge Michael Toole is the latest to fall in the on-going Luzerne County corruption scandal.
He is the third County judge removed from the bench for allegations of wrongdoing and the 20th person snared in the investigation.
Judge Toole has agreed to plead guilty to tax charges after investigators said he took tens of thousands of dollars from an attorney and tried to cover it up.
It's the latest blow to a courthouse clouded by corruption.
Toole admitted taking $30,000 from an attorney for a ruling in an uninsured/under insured motorist case in 2006.
"I have notified Judge Toole's chambers that he has been removed effective immediately. Any suspension must be undertaken by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court," said Luzerne County President Judge Chester Muroski. "I feel terrible. I am completely disappointed in what's happened with my colleagues, however I"m committed, along with the rest of my colleagues, to something more than we have."
It was two weeks ago when Toole abruptly took vacation time, postponing all his court matters.
Now, his days as a judge in Luzerne County are over.
Former County judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan were also removed from the bench after being charged with corruption.
"It's just another shocking story that has come out. Obviously the rumors have been going around for some time and now, you know, we know what the results of those rumors are," said Luzerne County Commissioner Maryanne Petrilla."It's taken it now to a new level. First it was juvenile injustice and now it's case fixing we're looking at and it's like where is it going to stop?"
"We remain committed to providing a justice system to our citizens that will bring greater transparency to the administration of our courts," Judge Muroski added.
The concern now is finding judges to fill slots left behind. Come January the county will be down four judges.
"Today I made application to the administrative office of the Pennsylvania Court to seek assignment of other judges who can assist in jury trials. Most importantly we will continue to explore every feasible office to schedule matters in a timely basis," said Judge Muroski.
Judge Toole faces up to 23 years behind bars and a $350,000 fine when he is sentenced. His father, Patrick Toole, is a senior judge in Luzerne County. Judge Muroski said he hopes Patrick Toole will continue his work on the bench in the county.