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Judge gets 28 years for 'kids for cash' scandal

A judge has been ordered to spend almost 30 years in prison for his role in a massive juvenile justice bribery scandal that prompted the Pennsylvania's high court to quash thousands of convictions. Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr was sentenced yesterday to 28 years for taking $1m (£617,000) in bribes from the builder of a pair of juvenile detention centres in a case that became known as "kids-for-cash".

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.

Ciavarella was tried and convicted of racketeering charges earlier this year. Known for his harsh and autocratic demeanour, Ciavarella filled the cells of the private lock-ups with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders convicted of theft and other minor crimes.

The judge remained defiant after his arrest, insisting the payments were legal and denying he incarcerated youths for money.