Pennsylvania Judge Gets 17.5 Year Sentence in Kids-for-Cash Scandal

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A former Pennsylvania judge has been sentenced to 17½ years in prison after his guilty plea in the Luzerne County kids-for-cash case.

Former President Judge Michael Conahan, 59, was sentenced Friday, report the Legal Intelligencer and the Associated Press. He also was ordered to pay $874,000 in restitution, the Legal Intelligencer says. He pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy in 2010 in connection with allegations that he accepted kickbacks in exchange for jailing juveniles in a private detention facility.

Conahan’s co-defendant, Mark Ciavarella, was sentenced to 28 years in prison after his conviction on 12 of 39 counts, including racketeering, mail fraud, money laundering conspiracy and filing false tax returns. A federal judge rejected a plea deal in 2009 that had called for sentences of 87 months in prison for Conahan and Ciavarella, saying the defendants had not accepted responsibility for their wrongdoing.

Conahan’s lawyer, Philip Gelso, said outside court that his client is “bitterly disappointed” by the sentence. At the hearing, Gelso said Conahan had shown an “outward expression of confidence,” but it was masking his “insidious feelings of insecurity and inadequacy,” the Intelligencer says. Gelso said Conahan had been physically abused as a child and had a history of alcohol abuse. Conahan has been receiving psychiatric treatment for two years.

More than two dozen letters sought leniency for Conahan, including one from First Assistant Luzerne County Public Defender Demetrius Fannick, the Citizens Voice reports.

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