The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned some 4,000 convictions issued by the former Luzerne County judge between 2003 and 2008, claiming he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles – including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea. Ciavarella Jnr, 61, was tried and convicted of racketeering charges earlier this year but his lawyers had asked for a “reasonable” sentence, claiming that he had already been punished enough.
Federal prosecutors accused Ciavarella Jnr and a second judge, Michael Conahan, of taking more than $2m in bribes from the builder of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention centres and extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the facilities’ co-owner. Ciavarella Jnr filled the beds of the private prisons with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders convicted minor crimes.
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