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PA judge who jailed juveniles for bribes sentenced to 17 ½ years

The second of two former Pennsylvania judges who federal prosecutors say engaged in a "kids for cash" scheme with a pair of private juvenile detention centers was sentenced to 17 ½ years in prison on Sept. 23. At the sentencing hearing in a Scranton courthouse, the former judge apologized for the fraud scheme, which involved the judges incarcerating about 4,000 innocent youths in exchange for bribes.

The former judge, who had pleaded guilty, hoped that his honesty and apparent remorse would lead the court to hand down a prison sentence of around seven years, which was the sentence he and prosecutors agreed to under a plea agreement in 2009. But the court rejected that plea deal, arguing that the defendant needed a stronger sentence. Instead, the sentence handed down on Sept. 23 was closer to the 20 years that was the maximum sentence available.

Prosecutors said the then-judges accepted more than $2 million in bribes from the company that operated PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care, private juvenile detention centers in Pennsylvania. In exchange for the bribes - along with hundreds of thousands of money that the former judges extorted from the company - the judges sentenced thousands of youthful defendants to the facilities.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned about 4,000 convictions after the scheme came to light. The Court noted that the other former judge, who was previously sentenced to prison, regularly violated the Constitutional rights of juvenile defendants in order to fill the facilities.

An attorney for the defendant said his client was "bitterly disappointed" by the long prison sentence, but did not plan to appeal.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, "Former judge gets 17 ½ years," Michael Rubinkam, Sept. 25, 2011

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