Ex-judge gets 17 1/2 years in Pa. kickbacks case

SCRANTON, Pa. - September 23, 2011

Standing in a federal courtroom in Scranton, former Luzerne County Judge Michael Conahan, 59, apologized to the incarcerated youths, the legal community and the public.

"The system is not corrupt," he said. "I was corrupt."

To the children sent to a pair of facilities from which he received kickbacks, Conahan offered a direct apology.

"My actions undermined your faith in the system and contributed to the difficulty in your lives," he said. "I am sorry you were victimized."

Conahan pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy last year. He and former Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. were charged with taking bribes from the builder of a pair of juvenile detention centers and extorting cash from the facilities' co-owner.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned about 4,000 juvenile convictions in the wake of the so-called "kids for cash" scandal.

Ciavarella was convicted of some of the charges at trial. He was sentenced last month to 28 years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Houser acknowledged that, unlike Ciavarella, Conahan had cooperated with prosecutors. But he requested a substantial sentence anyway.

"Mr. Conahan abused his power to enriched himself and his friend, Mark Ciavarella," Houser said. "The justice system in Pennsylvania was shaken to its very foundation."

U.S. District Judge Edwin M. Kosik recommended Conahan be placed in a federal prison camp in Florida so he can be close to his family.

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