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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pennsylvania prosecutor will not retry juveniles associated with sentencing scandal
Hillary Stemple at 8:27 AM ET

[JURIST] Luzerne County District Attorney Jacqueline Musto Carroll [official website] agreed on Monday to drop efforts to retry 46 juveniles whose original convictions were overturned [JURIST report] because they had been issued by a judge indicted on federal corruption charges for an alleged kickback scheme. In October, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania [official website] overturned about 6,500 convictions handed down by former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas [official website] president judge Mark Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, but gave prosecutors permission to seek retrial of more than 100 youths who were still under court supervision. Ciavarella, along with former president judge Michael Conahan, has been accused of accepting more than $2.6 million in kickbacks for sentencing teenagers to two private juvenile detention facilities in which they had a financial interest. The decision ends all efforts at retrying any of the convicted juveniles, who will now have their juvenile records cleared. The Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center [advocacy website] issued a statement [press release] applauding the decision, indicating that "justice has finally been attained" for the juveniles.

Ciavarella and Conahan are awaiting trial after being indicted in September, following a withdrawal of the guilty pleas [JURIST reports] they entered in February. The plea withdrawal came after Judge Edwin Kosik of the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website] rejected their plea agreements, finding that the men did not accept responsibility and that the prison sentences were too lenient [NYT report; JURIST op-ed]. This prompted the two former judges to file a motion for their reinstatement. Kosik refused to reinstate the plea agreements, causing the former judges to withdraw their pleas and clearing the way for a trial. Robert Powell, the owner of PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care juvenile facilities has pleaded guilty to paying kickbacks to both Ciavarella and Conahan.






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