Builder, locked-up youths reach $17 million settlement in Pa. ‘kids for cash’ lawsuit [USA]
A developer at the center of one of the biggest judicial scandals in U.S. history has agreed to pay more than $17 million to settle a civil lawsuit filed by juveniles who were locked up in youth detention facilities built by his company. The settlement with Robert K. Mericle and Mericle Construction..., based in Wilkes-Barre, in northeast Pennsylvania, was announced Friday by lawyers for the juveniles and their parents. Federal prosecutors said a pair of judges took illegal payments from Mericle, whom the judges had tapped to build for-profit juvenile detention centers. Mericle pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony and awaits sentencing. The plaintiffs’ federal lawsuit also names former Luzerne County Judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella Jr., the detention centers and others. Those defendants have not settled. The state Supreme Court overturned thousands of juvenile convictions in the wake of the so-called “kids for cash” scandal, saying Ciavarella routinely trampled on youths’ constitutional rights.