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Pa. judge guilty of racketeering in kickback case

•  State Bar News     updated  2011/02/20 09:14


A former juvenile court judge defiantly insisted he never accepted money for sending large numbers of children to detention centers even after he was convicted of racketeering for taking a $1 million kickback from the builder of the for-profit lockups.

Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella was allowed to remain free pending sentencing following his conviction Friday in what prosecutors said was a "kids for cash" scheme that ranks among the biggest courtroom frauds in U.S. history.

Ciavarella, 61, left the bench in disgrace two years ago after he and a second judge, Michael Conahan, were accused of using juvenile delinquents as pawns in a plot to get rich. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has dismissed 4,000 juvenile convictions issued by Ciavarella, saying he sentenced young offenders without regard for their constitutional rights.

Ciavarella maintained the payments were legal and denied that he incarcerated youths for money.

"Never took a dime to send a kid anywhere. ... Never happened. Never, ever happened. This case was about extortions and kickbacks, not about 'kids for cash,'" said Ciavarella, who plans to appeal.



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