The former co-owner of two Pennsylvania juvenile detention facilities pleaded guilty yesterday and will be sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for his part in a court corruption scheme involving wrongful sentencing of young offenders, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Prosecutors say businessman and attorney Robert Powell helped judges conceal crimes by falsifying records and helping conceal and disguise income to two Luzerne County juvenile court judges between 2003 and 2007.
The judges, Michael Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, were charged with taking millions in bribes to facilitate the construction of the two detention facilities. Both have pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges related to the scheme and agreed to serve seven years in prison. Investigators say the judges had a financial interest in both youth facilities and that they sent children there in shackles for minor crimes, sometimes without legal representation and against probation officers’ recommendations. For example, one 17-year-old who stole a $4 bottle of nutmeg appeared without a lawyer before Ciavarella. He ended up spending more than seven months in three juvenile detention facilities.