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Prison for Ex-Judge in Corruption Case

I hope you’re paid up on your rage bill, because you’re about to use a good portion of your monthly allotment after reading this article by Ashby Jones for The Wall Street Journal:

A former Pennsylvania county judge was sentenced to 28 years in prison Thursday following a corruption scandal in which he was convicted of illegally taking nearly $1 million from a builder of juvenile-detention facilities.

In February, a federal jury in Scranton, Pa., found the former judge, Mark Ciavarella, 61, guilty on 12 charges related to an alleged scheme in which prosecutors said he sentenced juveniles to private detention facilities in exchange for payments. He was convicted of racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy, but acquitted on 27 charges, including bribery and extortion.

Another judge, Michael Conahan, pleaded guilty last year to a racketeering charge in connection with the alleged scheme. He is awaiting sentencing.

About two years after the allegations emerged in 2007, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered all of Mr. Ciavarella’s adjudications involving children over a five-year period to be vacated. That wiped clean the records of about 4,000 juveniles, ranging from 10 to 18 years old.

At the trial, prosecutors alleged that in 2000, Mr. Ciavarella approached Robert Powell, a Luzerne County, Pa., lawyer and developer, and encouraged him to facilitate the building of two new private juvenile-detention centers, claiming that he didn’t like the existing county-run facility.

The centers were built. Between June 2000 and the end of April 2007, Messrs. Ciavarella and Conahan collected about $2.8 million from Mr. Powell and others in exchange for decisions from the bench that kept juveniles flowing into the detention centers, prosecutors alleged.

In that time, Mr. Ciavarella sentenced thousands of young people to the detention centers, often for lengthy stays for relatively minor infractions.

Michael Rubinkam’s piece for the Associated Press has a wonderful little quote from Ciavarella’s attorneys:

His attorneys had asked for a “reasonable” sentence in court papers, saying, in effect, that he’d already been punished enough.

"The media attention to this matter has exceeded coverage given to many and almost all capital murders, and despite protestation, he will forever be unjustly branded as the ‘Kids for Cash’ judge," their sentencing memo said.

Well, if you didn’t want that appellation, then maybe you shouldn’t have sent thousands of kids to jail for cash.

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