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Helicopter joins search for 91-year-old Pennsylvania judge

MICHAEL RUBINKAM, Associated Press

SCRANTON, Pa. - State police took to the air Thursday as the search intensified for a 91-year-old federal judge who suffers from memory loss and was reported missing from his northeastern Pennsylvania home.

Pennsylvania State Police Captain Christopher Paris answers questions during a press conference about the disappearance of federal judge Edwin Kosik, 91, in the William J. Nealon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Scranton, Pa., on Thursday, March 30, 2017. (Jake Danna Stevens / The Times-Tribune, Via AP)

U.S. District Judge Edwin Kosik, who recently stopped hearing cases because of health issues, takes medication for memory issues and investigators said that might have prompted his disappearance late Tuesday. U.S. Marshal Martin Pane said authorities have not yet ruled out foul play.

Kosik, who spent more than 30 years on the federal bench, was last seen just after 11 p.m. trying to enter a grocery store pharmacy near his home outside Scranton. The store was closed, and Kosik drove in the opposite direction from his house, Pane said. He left his wallet and phone at home.

“He’s a great man who’s had a great career and we’re hopeful … that we will have a successful ending to this,” Pane said at a news conference at the federal courthouse in Scranton, where Kosik maintained an office.

Marty Pane, U.S. Marshal for the Middle District of Pennsylvania holds a press conference about the disappearance of federal judge Edwin Kosik, 91, in the William J. Nealon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Scranton, Pa., on Thursday, March 30, 2017. ( Jake Danna Stevens / The Times-Tribune, via AP)

Electronic highway signs flashed news of the judge’s disappearance, and officials asked for the public’s help in finding him. State police searched the area via helicopter but found no immediate trace of Kosik’s gray 2015 Acura SUV, which has driver’s-side damage. The FBI joined the investigation.

“Our entire court is obviously very worried about our dear colleague,” Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner said in a statement read by Pane. “We are hoping for a quick and safe return.”

This image provided by the Pennsylvania State Police shows Edwin Kosik. The U.S. Marshals Service is looking for Kosik, a 91-year-old federal judge who has been reported missing from his Pennsylvania home. Kosik disappeared from his home near Scranton around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 29, 2017. The Marshals Service says he's driving a gray 2015 Acura with driver's side damage and may be "at special risk of harm or injury." (Pennsylvania State Police via AP)

Kosik was appointed to the federal bench in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. He’s best known for sending two corrupt judges to prison in a notorious juvenile justice scandal known as “kids for cash.”

The local judges — who were accused of taking money from the developer of a pair of for-profit youth detention centers — initially pleaded guilty to federal charges, but Kosik rejected the deal, saying they hadn’t fully accepted responsibility for the crimes. Kosik sentenced one judge to 17 1 / 2 years and the other judge to 28 years in prison.

Kosik’s family reported him missing around 4 p.m. Wednesday. He is believed to be wearing jeans and a blue winter coat, and has a bruise on the left side of his forehead.