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Jury reaches mixed verdict over Pennsylvania juvenile sentencing scandal

A jury in the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website] reached a split decision on Friday in the corruption trial of former Pennsylvania judge Mark Ciavarella, convicting him of 12 counts, including racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy, and acquitting him of 27 counts, including extortion. Ciavarella, a former judge in Pennsylvania's Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas [official website], was implicated in a juvenile sentencing scandal [JURIST news archive] and accused of receiving kickbacks for sentencing teenagers to two private juvenile detention facilities in which he had a financial interest. Ciavarella was charged with 39 counts of honest services fraud, racketeering, money laundering, wire fraud, bribery, extortion and tax evasion. He will remain free pending sentencing, and he is expected to serve [Scranton Times-Tribune report] between 13 to 15 years.

The trial began [JURIST report] earlier this month. In July, Judge Edwin Kosik accepted [JURIST report] a plea agreement [text, PDF] with former Pennsylvania judge Michael Conahan for his involvement in the juvenile sentencing scandal. Conahan now faces a 20-year prison sentence, a fine of up to $250,000 and disbarment. Kosik had previously rejected [JURIST report] joint plea agreements [text, PDF] from Conahan and Ciavarella, finding that plea bargaining to honest services fraud and tax evasion charges demonstrated that the men did not accept responsibility and that the disbarment and 87-month prison sentences were too lenient [JURIST op-ed]. Conahan and Ciavarella were indicted in September 2009, following a withdrawal of the guilty pleas they entered [JURIST reports] in February 2009.

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