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Ex-judge gets 17.5 years in "kids for cash" case

SCRANTON, Pa. — A former chief county judge who took part in a massive kickback scheme involving for-profit juvenile detention centers was sentenced Friday to 17 1/2 years in prison.

Appearing in a federal courtroom in Scranton, former Luzerne County President 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.

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.

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.

Conahan's attorney called the sentence disappointing but said there would be no appeal.

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