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‘Kids for Cash’ judge Mark Ciavarella seeks early release from prison over COVID-19 concerns

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A former Luzerne County Judge convicted in the infamous “Kids for Cash” scandal is seeking early release from prison because of COVID-19 concerns.

Mark Ciavarella is serving a 28-year sentence for his part in the scheme in which juveniles were sent to a private detention center in exchange for millions of dollars in kickbacks.

Former Luzerne County Judge, Michael Conahan, who pleaded guilty in the case, was released from prison because of COVID concerns. 

This case rocked the juvenile justice system, not only here in Luzerne County but across the state and nation. Victims and their families are outraged by Ciavarella’s efforts to be released early.

“It’s something that’s not allowing the children to heal because he keeps doing this,” said Judy Lorah Fisher, aunt of one of the victims.

Judy Lorah Fisher knows all to well the impact the so called “Kids for Cash” scandal is still having on the victims. Her 13-year-old niece was sent away by then judge Mark Ciavarella for what they say was a minor incident in school.

“It’s re-traumatizing the children. It doesn’t allow them to heal,” said Fisher.

Ciavarella was convicted of numerous counts in 2011 connected to an alleged scheme where he and Judge Conahan accepted millions of dollars in kickbacks to send juveniles to a private juvenile detention center. Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Conahan pleaded guilty in the case and was serving a 17-and-a-half year sentence in federal prison. The now 68-year-old Conahan was released in June of this year because of COVID-19 health related concerns. Ciaverella, now 70, also petitioned for an early release in September, but a federal judge denied the request. 

Last week he filed a petition seeking release again, citing numerous medical problems including kidney disease and bronchitis.

“The risk associated with these conditions, significant in any event, has been exacerbated exponentially by Mr. Ciavarella’s potential exposure to COVID-19 at the facility in which he is incarcerated,” stated the Ciavarella petition.

Amanda Lorah was 13 years old when Ciavarella sent her to juvenile detention for five years for an incident in school.

“I just don’t believe it is fair that Ciavarella should have a chance with this COVID early release and is putting us through this trauma again. He needs to accept what he’s done and finish his time like we all had to,” said Lorah.

Sandy Fonzo can be seen exchanging words with Mark Ciavarella outside the William J. Nealon Federal Courthouse in Scranton in 2011.

Sandy Fonzo lashed out at Ciaveralla on the day he was convicted in 2011. Her son was sent away by Ciavarella. He took his own life years later.

Fonzo insists the juvenile detention sent her son into a downward spiral.

“I am absolutely appalled that this nightmare is never ending. He should receive no special consideration,” said Fonzo.

The United States Attorney can respond to Ciavarella’s petition. As of now, nothing has been filed. We reached out to the U.S. Attorney for comment on the case, but at this point we have not received a response. No word on when a federal judge might rule on Ciavarella’s petition.

You can read Ciavarella’s petion in full here.

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