The jury deliberations in the trial of Mark Ciavarella, a former Pennsylvania judge who has been charged with racketeering, fraud, money laundering, extortion, bribery and federal tax violations, will resume on Friday.
On Thursday, the jurors deliberated on the fate of Ciavarella, who has been accused of accepting $2.8 million in kickbacks in return for shutting down the Luzerne County's only state-run juvenile detention center and handing over harsh sentence to teenage offenders and sending them to a for-profit detention center.
The prosecutors have accused Ciavarella and Michael Conahan - two judges of the Court of Common Pleas in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania - of receiving kickbacks from Robert K. Mericle, the builder and co-owner of two juvenile detention facilities in return for sending juvenile offenders to the facilities, sometimes for minor offenses. Ciavarella has also been accused of preventing teenage offenders from appearing in his court without lawyers. Legal representation is a constitutional right in the U.S.
The kids for cash scheme prompted the state Supreme Court to throw out thousands of convictions.
They have also been charged with trying to extort money from Robert J. Powell, a Luzerne County lawyer and property developer. The detention centers in the eye of the storm are PA Childcare and Western PA Childcare.
However, the defense lawyers say Ciavarella took legal finder's fees from Mericle and though he committed tax fraud by not declaring his fees to the IRS, he never attempted to extort money from Powell.
Ciavarella says he is confident that he will be acquitted of the charges. His wife, Cindy Ciavarella, said it's the worst nightmare of her life. I don't wish it on anybody, that's for sure, she said.
The jury deliberations at the federal courthouse in Scranton resumes at 8.30 a.m. on Friday.
The trial has caught the nation's attention as the case highlights the dangerous gap in the juvenile justice systems of many state - children appearing in court without lawyers.