SCRANTON-Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was ordered Thursday to spend 28 years in prison for a bribery scandal that prompted the state’s high court to overturn thousands of juvenile convictions. Mr. Ciavarella was convicted of taking a $1 million bribe from the builder of a pair of juvenile detention centers in a case that became known as “kids for cash.” In the wake of the scandal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned about 4,000 convictions issued by the judge, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles. Al Flora, his lawyer, called the sentence harsher than expected.
Federal prosecutors accused Mr. Ciavarella and a second judge, Michael Conahan, of taking more than $2 million in bribes from Robert Mericle, the builder of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention centers, and of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from Robert Powell, the facilities’ co-owner. Mr. Ciavarella took the cash while filling the beds of the private lockups with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders. Mr. Conahan pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.