Thursday, September 10, 2009

2 Former Pa. judges indicted in kids-for-cash scheme

The Associated Press: Former Pa. judges indicted in kids-for-cash scheme
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Federal prosecutors have ratcheted up their pursuit of two former Pennsylvania judges accused of taking $2.8 million in kickbacks to place youth offenders in private detention centers.

Former Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan were charged in a 48-count indictment Wednesday with racketeering, extortion, bribery, money laundering, fraud and other crimes. The indictment was made public Thursday.

The judges had pleaded guilty in February to two counts — honest services fraud and tax evasion — in a deal with prosecutors that called for a sentence of 87 months in prison, far below federal guidelines. But Senior U.S. District Judge Edward M. Kosik rejected the deal last month, saying the two had not fully accepted responsibility for the crimes.

The pair then switched their pleas to not guilty, and prosecutors took the case to the grand jury, adding counts against the two. The judges have an initial court appearance Tuesday.

Al Flora, Ciavarella's lawyer, said his client will plead not guilty.

"Even though you now have an indictment handed down, the indictment is nothing more than allegations made by the government. My client is presumed innocent under the law," Flora said.

Conahan's attorney declined comment....

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