Mark Ciavarella Jr. plead guilty on February 13, 2009, pursuant to a plea agreement, to federal charges of honest services fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion in connection with receiving $2.6 million in kickbacks from Robert Powell and Robert Mericle, the co-owner and builder respectively, of two private, for-profit juvenile facilities. In exchange for these kickbacks, Ciavarella sentenced children to extended stays in juvenile detention for offenses as minimal as mocking a principal on Myspace, trespassing in a vacant building, and shoplifting DVDs from Wal-mart. More specifically, the crimes charged were: conspiracy to deprive the public of the “intangible right of honest services”, or corruption, and conspiracy to defraud the United States by failing to report income to the Internal Revenue Service. Ciavarella tendered his resignation to Governor Ed Rendell on January 23, 2009, prior to official publication of the charges.
The plea agreement called for Ciavarella to serve up to seven years in prison, pay fines and restitution, and accept responsibility for the crimes. However, Ciavarella denied that there was a connection between the juvenile sentences he rendered and the kickbacks he received. In part because of this denial, on July 30, 2009, Judge Edwin M. Kosik of Federal District Court in Scranton, Pennsylvania rejected the plea agreement. He ruled that Ciavarella had continued to deny that there was a ‘quid pro quo’ between his receipt of money and his jailing of juveniles, instead characterizing the money as a “finder’s fee” despite what Judge Kosik felt was the weight of the government’s evidence. Attorneys for the two judges brought a motion requesting reconsideration of the judge’s rejection of the plea agreement. The motion was denied on August 24, and Ciavarella and Conahan withdrew their guilty pleas, resulting in the case going to trial.
On September 9, 2009, a federal grand jury in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania returned a 48 count indictment against Ciavarella and Conahan, which included racketeering, fraud, money laundering, extortion, bribery, and federal tax violations. Both judges were arraigned on the charges on September 15, 2009. Ciavarella and Conahan entered pleas of not guilty to the 48-count indictment, and remained free on one million dollars bail, despite federal prosecutors contentions that their bail should be raised since they now faced the possibility of substantially more prison time and that there was evidence of their attempts to shield assets.
On February 18, 2011, a jury in federal court found Ciavarella guilty of racketeering. This charge stemmed from Ciavarella accepting $997,000 in illegal payments from Robert Mericle, the real estate developer of PA Child Care, and attorney Robert Powell, a co-owner of the facility. Ciavarella was also on trial for 38 other counts including accepting numerous payments from Mericle and Powell as well as tax evasion.
On August 11, 2011, Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison. On May 24, 2013, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals vacated one count of the indictment against Ciavarella, but upheld all other charges, as well as his sentence. The Third Circuit refused to reconsider on July 24, 2013. The Supreme Court, which rarely accepts such cases, declined to hear the appeal in 2014, although Ciavarella could file a post-conviction relief motion before U.S. District Court within one year. With good behavior, he could be released in less than 24 years, when he would be 85. Ciavarella initially served his sentence at Federal Correctional Institution, Pekin in Pekin, Illinois. In October 2014 he was moved to Federal Transfer Center, Oklahoma City. His earliest projected release date is December 30, 2035. – Wiki