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Ex-PA Judges Ordered To Pay $200M For Roles In 'Kids For Cash' Scandal

Two former Pennsylvania judges sentenced to prison for sending children to detention centers in exchange for kickbacks were ordered to pay more than $200 million in damages. Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan were accused in 2009 of sending hundreds of teenagers to private youth detention centers in exchange for kickbacks from the builder of new detention facilities in the “kids for cash” scandal. The ex-judges orchestrated the shutdown of Luzerne County juvenile facilities in 2002 to set the stage for new private detention centers to be built, the Wall Street Journal reports. Ciavarella was convicted in 2011 of money laundering and was sentenced to 28 years in prison. Conahan pleaded guilty in 2010 and was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner awarded the plaintiffs $106.3 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages. “[The] plaintiffs are the tragic human casualties of a scandal of epic proportions,” he wrote. “Their cruel and despicable actions victimized a vulnerable population of young people, many of whom were suffering from emotional issues and mental health concerns.” The court heard the testimony of 282 former juveniles, 79 of whom were under the age of 13 when they were detained. Sol Weiss, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he was unsure if the damages would be paid out, as the judges suffered monetary losses in previous court cases. “This decision sends a clear message to public officials that if they violate their oath of office they should expect a severe punishment,” he said.

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