Pennsylvania judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was sentenced to 28 years in prison for a scandal in which he sent thousands of children to private prisons in return for a kickback.
The judge in the “cash for kids” scandal, Ciavarella Jr., was tried and convicted of racketeering charges. Lawyers for the 61-year-old former judge had asked for a “reasonable” sentence, saying the judge had been punished already through his conviction and fall from grace.
“He will forever be unjustly branded as the `Kids for Cash‘ judge,” his lawyer contended.
The Pennsylvania judge had a reputation for his harsh and dictatorial courtroom manner, and for what appeared to be overly strict sentencing. The trial revealed that Ciavarella was more than just a tough judge.
Ciavarella was famously confronted by a mother of one of the children sentenced. While he stood on the courthouse steps addressing the media, Ciavarella was interrupted by a mother whose son was sent to jail in the “cash for kids” scandal.
The boy served a jail sentence and lost his standing at high school, where he was an honor student and wrestler. The boy ended up taking his life.
Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years and ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution after being called a “figurehead” in the cash-for-kids scandal. A jury found that he had violated the constitutional rights of the children sentenced, stripping them of the right to legal counsel and to intelligently enter a plea.
“Unfortunately, two judges in Luzerne County have caused unimaginable taint to the laudable efforts of many dedicated individuals,” Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille said, “conduct for which those two judges presently are paying dearly.”
Prosecutors said Mark Ciavarella Jr. and another judge, Michael Conahan, were accused of taking more than $2 million in bribes from the builder of PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention centers. They sentenced children as young as 10 to the facilities.