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Judge overturns three of Mark Ciavarella's convictions

He's serving up to 28 years in prison for the kids-for-cash scheme.

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)- What's next for the kids-for-cash judge Mark Ciavarella? That's the question many people are asking after a federal judge threw out three of his 12 convictions.

Ciavarella is serving up to 28 years in prison after being convicted in 2011 in connection with sending juveniles to private detention centers in exchange for millions of dollars in kickbacks.

The judge in this case determined that Ciavarella's defense lawyers should have pursued a statute of limitations defense. He ordered a new trial.

Nine of the 12 convictions still stand, but legal experts say it is still unclear what this means for Ciavarella. The big unanswered question is: could he soon be a free man?

It was an explosion of emotion moments after a jury found the former Luzerne County judge guilty of 12 of 39 charges in the kids-for-cash scheme. The jury determined that Ciavarella accepted $2.7 million in kickbacks from the developer and builder of a private detention center to funnel juveniles into that facility. Federal prosecutors argued and the jury believed Ciavarella sent them there for minor crimes.

At an appeal hearing in September, Ciavarella's attorneys argued that his lawyer at trial should have argued that the statute of limitations had expired for the counts of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The federal judge agreed.

So what now?

"He's not going to be a free man anytime soon, I can tell you that mmuch," said Attorney Al Flora who represented Ciavarella at trial.

Flora no longer represents him. He says it's still very unclear what happens next.

"Who knows how it's going to play out," he said. "I think you're looking at some lengthy litigation that is probably going to continue for another year or two to be resolved."

The U.S Attorney released a statement Tuesday which read in part:

"We will consider all options, as this office remains committed to preserving Ciavarella's convictions."

This court ruling has stirred emotions of the kids-for-cash victims and their families. Some say their worst nightmare is coming back.

Another Luzerne County judge, Michael Conahan, pleaded guilty in the kids-for-cash scandal. He is serving a 17 and a half year prison sentence.


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