Lawyer Who Paid $725K Kickbacks to Judges in Pa. ‘Kids for Cash’ Case Gets 18 Months

A Pennsylvania lawyer who said he was pressured into participating in a $2.6 million “kids for cash” corruption scheme operated by two then-Luzerne County judges was sentenced today to 18 months in prison by a federal judge in Scranton.

Robert J. Powell got a reduced sentence in recognition of his help in prosecuting the two now-former judges, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan, reports the Citizens Voice.

His lawyer had sought probation. Powell pleaded guilty in 2009 to concealing a felony and being an accessory, recounts the Associated Press.

Powell, who says the judges extorted $725,000 from him in exchange for jailing juveniles at a private detention facility in which he then had an ownership interest, wore a wire and recorded conversations with both Ciavarella and Conahan, the news agency says.

“My selfish actions caused me to be in this place,” said Powell in a letter to the court apologizing for his actions. “The only way I could legally and morally atone for this was to cooperate, though the decision to do so was difficult in that I knew it would cause me and my family to be ostracized. I knew it was the right thing to do…my children now have reason to be proud of their father again.”

While U.S. District Edwin M. Kosik recognized that Powell cooperated with the government, he also noted that there was another course the attorney could have taken when approached for kickbacks, the AP reports:

“He could have told the judges to go to hell,” Kosik said.

By Martha Neil

Nov 4, 2011, 11:22 am CDT