Ex-owner Of Pa. Youth Lockups Gets 18 Months
SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) – The former owner of two juvenile detention facilities was sentenced Friday to 18 months in prison for his role in a kickback scheme that led the state Supreme Court to vacate the convictions of thousands of juveniles who appeared before a now-jailed Pennsylvania judge.
Robert Powell pleaded guilty in 2009 to concealing a felony and an accessory charge in the so-called “kids for cash” scandal.
Powell testified earlier this year that he was forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to former Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan in return for their support of his two private juvenile detention facilities.
Powell said the judges extorted more than $725,000 from him after they shut down the county-run detention center and instead sent juveniles to his new lockup outside the city of Wilkes- Barre.
Sentencing guidelines call for a punishment of between 27 to 33 months in prison, but Powell was given credit for cooperating with the government.
When Powell became aware he was a target of the investigation, he approached prosecutors and offered to provide details of the scheme.
Powell wore a wire and recorded incriminating conversations with Conahan and Ciavarella, leading Conahan to plead guilty. He offered crucial testimony in the Ciavarella trial and wore a wire against a third judge in an unrelated case.
Prosecutors sought a sentence of 12 to 18 months. Powell's attorney, Joseph D'Andrea, said his client deserved an even more lenient sentence – probation, or at the most 12 months – because of the “extraordinary assistance” he gave in helping prosecutors make their case.
“Bob found himself being muscled and pressured by two very corrupt and evil men who sat as judges in Luzerne County,” D'Andrea told U.S. District Judge Edwin Kosik.
Kosik, while recognizing Powell's cooperation, said the high-powered attorney had benefited financially from the scheme.
“He could have told the judges to go to hell,” Kosik said.
Powell, who has moved with his family to Florida, declined to comment as he left the courthouse Friday. He is required to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons by Nov. 30.