Judges in “Kids for Cash” Scandal Drop Pleas and Demand Trial

180px-The_Jury_by_John_MorganThe former Pennsylvania judges charged in the “kids for cash” corruption scandal — Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan — have withdrawn their guilty pleas and demanded a trial. They took the step after Senior U.S. District Judge Edward M. Kosik refused to accept their plea agreement with prosecutors in light of their failure to take responsibility for their actions.

U.S. District Judge Edwin Kosik has rejected the plea bargain given the two former judges who previously pleaded guilty in a scheme to steer juveniles to for-profit detention facilities for $2.6 million in kickbacks. The decision of Kosik shows the dangers of defendants speaking to the media between pleas and sentencings.

It is good news for many critics who objected to prosecutors agreeing to the 87-month sentence for the two judges as insufficient punishment for their alleged misconduct.

judge-mark-ciavarella-247x300The problem occurred after the guilty plea. Ciavarella made comments after his plea that indicated that he still claimed innocence. Kosik also noted with disfavor objections filed by Conahan to the presentencing report. Conahan, the court notes in the order below, refused to discuss his motivation with the probation staff and denied critical facts in his plea. He calls these objections “obstructive.” For his part, Ciavarella (right) is not criticized for his presentence interviews or report but is criticized for public statements where he denies that there was a quid pro quo — the central allegation in the plea agreement.

For a copy of the original order, click here.

For a prior story, click here.

The two judges tried to get Kosik to reconsider his decision but when he refused they opted for trial. The alternative would have been to allow Kosik to sentence them outside of the plea range. They clearly expected a much higher sentence given Kosik’s statements. The fraud charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. For the tax charge, the maximum is five years.

The risk is now that they will get no benefit from avoiding a trial and admitting guilt. Given their positions of authority and trust, the guidelines would allow a sentence near the high end of the range. That would please the hundreds of former juveniles and their family members who accuse the judges of ordering their incarceration for kickbacks.

For the full story, click here.

14 thoughts on “Judges in “Kids for Cash” Scandal Drop Pleas and Demand Trial”

  1. Considering what he has done and his history as a judge, he will almost certainly be placed in the Protective Custody Unit of the prison and not in the general population. Even then, his sentence may turn out to be “life” if or when they find his lifeless body in the shower. Inmates will not even have to meet him in order to take an instant dislike for him. I just feel sorry for the correctional officers and supervisors who will have to guard him. It will be a difficult and thankless job.

  2. UPDATE:

    Pennsylvania: Former Judge SentencedIn Bribery Tied to Juvenile Court
    By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Published: August 11, 2011

    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.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/us/12brfs-Ciavarella.html?_r=1&ref=markaciavarella

    He could have gotten LIFE….

  3. UPDATE:

    The BBC is reporting “[f]ormer Pennsylvania judge Michael Conahan has pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge for helping put juvenile defendants behind bars in exchange for bribes.

    He is accused along with former judge Mark Ciavarella of taking $2.8m (£1.8m) from a profit-making detention centres. Mr Ciavarella denies wrongdoing.

    The two pleaded guilty last year but a federal judge tossed out part of the plea agreement for being too lenient.

    Conahan faces up to 20 years in jail.

    US District Judge Edwin Kosik rejected the 87-month jail term set out last year in Conahan’s agreement. Under that deal, the former judge would have been able to back out if he was dissatisfied with his sentence.

    Judge Kosik has accepted Conahan’s current plea agreement with prosecutors, which has no such get-out clause.”

    Read the rest of the story at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-10747919

  4. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33539621/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/

    PASC tosses five years worth of Ciavarella’s rulings. More than 6,000 cases.

    Now consider this: How many towns in this country have a population of less than 6,000? How many counties?

    He and Conahan sold out the Constitutional Rights of CHILDREN for $2.8 million dollars.

    2 corrupt judges + 2.8 mil – 6,000 kids Rights and lives = life in prison without chance of parole

    Slarti? Anyone? Does that math sound about fair? I think it’s a balanced equation.

  5. Some relevant, modern day wisdom from my (and JT’s too, I bet–he’s got that obvious hip hop streak) favorite rapper, Eminem:

    “So be careful what you wish for
    ‘Cause you just might get it
    And if you get it then you just might not know
    What to do wit’ it, ’cause it might just
    Come back on you ten-fold.”

    (Careful What You Wish For, 2009)

  6. Let them have their trial — then lock them away for a very long time. The state should be able to produce quite a few witnesses willing to speak against the possibility of these men seeing the light of day for years to come.

    I had wondered what was going on with that case; it seemed to have fallen off the globe. I guess not!

  7. When a person holds a job, paid for by the taxpayers, that has
    power over those same taxpayers, like a sheriff, cop, judge, teacher, and he or she breaks the law, the penalty for doing so
    should be double the ordinary fine or sentence, as it is a betrayal of public trust.

  8. Enjoy going to prison after your trials, “Judges”. I know I’m going to laugh the day your sentences are announced, either because justice will be had and that is always a cause for celebration or because you walked and it’s a further sign our governmental structures are losing their validity. Both occasions merit laughter. Rest assured though. It will be laughing AT you, not WITH you.

  9. What they did was horrible but I don’t think they’re worth the rope. Although there was an appealing simplicity to Robespierre’s approach…

  10. Where is Sarah Palin when you need her to shoot Moose from the Helicopter? These should even be easy targets for Cheney as well. Why waste money on a trial, when they have already admitted guilt. Shoot em, hang em, drag em Texas style, Tase em or daze em.

    Too Bad that this type of crime is not a Capitol Offense?

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