Court Upholds Most Pa. ‘Kids For Cash’ Convictions
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – All but one of the convictions of a former county judge in the “kids for cash” juvenile justice scandal in northeastern Pennsylvania were upheld Friday by a federal appeals court.
A three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected nearly all the arguments made by attorneys for Mark Ciavarella, who is currently serving a 28-year sentence for racketeering, fraud, conspiracy and other offenses.
At the heart of the case was Ciavarella’s involvement with privately run juvenile detention centers and allegations that as a juvenile judge he sent children to the centers so that he could make money.
The panel threw out one count of honest services mail fraud, saying the statute of limitations had expired, and sent the case back to the district court for resentencing.
With the criminal investigation, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out about 4,000 juvenile convictions in cases handled by Ciavarella. And in December, a federal judge approved a nearly $18 million settlement for claims from about 1,600 juveniles that they were wrongfully incarcerated by judges.
Fuentes also was critical of the trial judge, U.S. Middle District Judge Edwin Kosik, for personally writing seven letters in response to letters he received about the case, but the appeals panel ruled Kosik’s actions did not prevent Ciavarella from getting a fair trial.
“Though Judge Kosik’s personalized responses to any letters from the public was ill-advised, their contents do not mandate his recusal because no reasonable person would question Judge Kosik’s impartiality under these unique circumstances,” Fuentes wrote.
Ciavarella attorney Al Flora said he hoped to discuss the ruling soon with his client. He said no decision has been made on an appeal to the full 3rd Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ciavarella is serving his sentence at a federal prison in Pekin, Ill. Another Luzerne County judge who pleaded guilty in the same scandal, Michael Conahan, is serving a sentence of more than 17 years at a federal prison in Coleman, Fla.
Federal prosecutors did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
The Citizens’ Voice of Wilkes-Barre reported Friday that Ciavarella’s wife Cindy filed for divorce. The two were married in 1977; they have been separated since September 2010.