A Pennsylvania judge was sentenced Wednesday to 28 years in prison for his participation in a juvenile sentencing scandal [JURIST news archive]. Mark Ciavarella Jr., a former judge in Pennsylvania's Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas [official website], was accused of receiving nearly $1 million in kickbacks for sentencing teenagers to two private juvenile detention facilities in which he had a financial interest. A jury in the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website] reached a split decision [JURIST report] in April in Ciavarella's corruption trial, convicting him of 12 counts, including racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy, and acquitting him of 27 counts, including extortion. In a sentencing memorandum [text, PDF] filed Monday, Ciavarella's attorneys urged the court to be lenient, pointing to, among other factors, the jury acquittals, Ciavarella's lack of criminal history and the original plea offer containing an 87-month sentence. The attorneys also argued that a long sentence would not be appropriate in Ciavarella's case:
Mark can never again be a judge or lawyer. His life as a public office holder is over. A lengthy prison sentence does no more for the public's protection than a shorter sentence, or no sentence at all. The offense for which Ciavarella stands convicted is unique in that as a practical matter the perpetrator must never be involved in public affairs.The US Probation Office pre-sentence report indicated that Ciavarella was eligible for life in prison [WSJ report] pursuant to federal sentencing guidelines.
Ciavarella's trial began [JURIST report] in early February. In July 2010, Judge Edwin Kosik accepted [JURIST report] a plea agreement [text, PDF] from 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]. In October 2009, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania [official website] overturned [opinion, PDF] 6,500 juvenile-offender convictions issued by Ciavarella [JURIST report]. Conahan and Ciavarella were indicted in September 2009, following a withdrawal of the guilty pleas they entered [JURIST reports] in February 2009.