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Justice in the balance in Luzerne County

Apr 8th, 2018 | By | Category: Lead Article, News

In 2011, two judges in Luzerne County were found guilty of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for sentencing children to private prisons operated by two businessmen. These children, thousands of them, were taken away from their parents and put into for-profit juvenile facilities for minor infractions. One of the victims later committed suicide.

Former Judge Mark Ciavarella, who is serving a 28-year sentence, scored a legal victory in January, when a federal judge threw out convictions on three counts (but upheld them on nine others). In an ironic twist, the ruling relied on the incompetence of earlier counsel. The convicted judge and his attorneys were found to have overlooked a statute of limitations defense that could have altered the original trial’s outcome. Therefore, ruled the federal judge, Ciavarella was entitled to a retrial on the disputed counts. (1)

And now, in April, Ciaverella has won yet another legal skirmish. The federal judge in January had rejected Ciaverella’s attempt to overturn three other counts. Another federal judge has now ruled that Ciaverella can appeal that ruling. (2)

How about the rest of the Gang of Four?

Real estate developer Robert Mericle served about a year. Former local attorney Robert Powell served 18 months. Former Judge Michael Conahan is serving 17½ years in federal prison. No news on whether Conahan had equally incompetent attorneys representing him. Or at least attorneys claiming that they were incompetent, and their client was now entitled to appeal his conviction.

Photo: Former Judge Mark Ciavarella





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