2009-08-20 / Local & State

Pa. Judge: Throw Out Juvenile Convictions

READING, Pa. (AP) - Every finding of juvenile delinquency by a judge accused of taking kickbacks from a private juvenile detention company should be thrown out and nearly all the cases should not be retried, a judge appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review the cases said Wednesday.

The state Supreme Court still has the final say on what happens to the juveniles found delinquent by Luzerne County Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr.

Berks County Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim, who was appointed as a special master to review the cases, said in a report that retrying the 1,866 cases of those juveniles who appeared before Ciavarella without lawyers between 2003 and May 2008 would amount to double jeopardy. Grim wrote that there would be no public benefit in retrying the cases of juveniles who had lawyers but have completed their sentences.

For juveniles who were represented by lawyers and have not completed their sentences, Grim said he should review those cases individually. He said he is confident those cases "will be small in number, and can be reviewed expeditiously.''

Ciavarella and another former Luzerne County judge, Michael Conahan, were accused of taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to place juveniles in private detention centers. The two pleaded guilty this year to fraud and tax evasion and agreed to serve 87 months in federal prison.

But Senior U.S. District Judge Edward M. Kosik nixed the plea agreements last month, saying the two defendants failed to accept responsibility for the crimes. They have until Aug. 30 to decide whether to withdraw their pleas and go on trial, or keep the pleas intact and let Kosik pronounce sentence.

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