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Former Pennsylvania judge sentenced to 17 1/2 years in federal prison

Former Pennsylvania Judge Michael Conahan, 59, was sentenced on Friday to 17 and a half years in federal prison for his involvement in a juvenile sentencing scandal [JURIST news archive]. Conahan appeared in a federal courtroom [WSJ report] at the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website] and apologized to the legal community, the public and the youths incarcerated throughout the "kids for cash" scandal, during which Conahan sent juveniles to for-profit jails in exchange for money. Conahan, the former president judge of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas [official website], pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy charges [Citizens Voice report] for accepting more than $2.6 million in return for sentencing teenagers to two private juvenile detention facilities. A district court judge accepted a plea agreement [text, PDF] in July 2010.

Mark Ciavarella, also a former Pennsylvania judge implicated in the juvenile sentencing scandal, was sentenced to 28 years in prison [JURIST report] in August. A jury in the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania reached a split decision [JURIST report] in Ciavarella's April corruption trial, convicting him of 12 counts, including racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy, and acquitting him of 27 counts, including extortion. Judge Edwin 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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