Thursday, July 28th the Pennsylvania Supreme Court authorized compensation payments for more than 100 victims of juvenile offenders whose convictions were overturned in the aftermath of the Luzerne County kids-for-cash scandal.
Berks County Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim said in a report to the high court that the payments range from $25 to $1,500 depending on the victim’s loss, expenses and damages. This amount is the maximum under state juvenile court rules.
Judge Grim, whose review of the scandal-plagued juvenile court led to the reversal of approximately 4,000 juvenile convictions under the control of ex-Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and his partner in crime, ex-Judge Michael T. Conahan, recommended payments for 114 victims, totaling $65,310.
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The payments to victims of the juveniles will be disbursed from a $500,000 victim compensation fund established last year by the state legislature, ensuring restitution for victims who would have otherwise been shut out from compensation, Grim said.
The state Supreme Court assigned Grim to review the cases in February 2009, after federal prosecutors charged Ciavarella and Conahan with pocketing kickbacks from two for-profit juvenile detention centers. The ex-judges received the illegal payments as compensation for sending juveniles to PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care.
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State Senator John Yudichak, (D-Nanticoke), who backed the creation of the victim compensation fund, commended the state Supreme Court’s payment authorization.
“This is yet another step in the long process of moving the state and Luzerne County forward as we recover from one of the darkest times in Pennsylvania judicial history,” Yudichak said. “These payments will help those people who did not receive full restitution for their losses and hopefully provide them with some measure of justice.”
Conahan, who pleaded guilty in April 2010, awaits sentencing while Ciavarella, who chose to go to trial, is scheduled to be sentenced on August 11th. The two facilities remain open and continue to accept juveniles from many Pennsylvania counties, though Luzerne County no longer sends adjudicated juveniles to them.
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