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Pa. Throws Out Corrupt Judge's Convictions

A top court has dismissed thousands of juvenile convictions issued by a judge charged in a corruption scandal.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday threw out more than five years' worth of cases heard by former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella. He is charged with accepting millions of dollars in kickbacks to send youths to private detention centers.

The court says that all the convictions are tainted and that the youths may not be retried.

The Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center represents some of the youths and says the court's order covers more than 6,000 cases.

Last month, Ciavarella and former Luzerne County Judges Michael Conahan were indicted on federal racketeering charges.

Conahan and Ciavarella had pleaded guilty in February to honest services fraud and tax evasion in a deal with prosecutors that called for a sentence of 87 months in prison, far below federal guidelines. But the deal was rejected last month by Senior U.S. District Judge Edward M. Kosik, who said the two hadn't fully accepted responsibility for the crimes, and the ex-judges switched their pleas to not guilty.

The indictment marked a dramatic escalation in the government's pursuit of the disgraced judges. The charges include racketeering, fraud, money laundering, extortion, bribery and federal tax violations and could bring decades in prison. It indictment also seeks the forfeiture of at least $2.8 million, "which is alleged to be the proceeds of the charged criminal activity," according to a news release issued by the U.S. attorney's office in Harrisburg.