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Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

Radio Smart Talk: Kids for Cash author

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Nov 8, 2012 4:20 PM

Radio Smart Talk for Friday, November 9:

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Fifteen-year-old Charlie spent months at a boot camp for juvenile offenders for riding a motorbike that his parents purchased as a gift, not knowing it was stolen.  Fourteen-year-old Angelia was sent to a detention center for three months for writing "Michael Jackson for President" on five stop signs.  Fourteen-year-old Hillary created a MySpace post mocking an assistant prinicipal at her high school and was sentenced to a camp.

If these punishments seem extreme, the judge who handed them down had good reason.  Judge Mark Ciaverella received kickbacks to the tune of $2.8 million for sending juvenile offenders to a private detention center.

This incredible story all played out in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania without attorneys, prosecutors, probation officers or other court officials saying a word.

William Ecenbarger discusses what has been described as the worst scandal in juvenile justice history in his book, Kids for Cash -- Two Judges, Thousands of Children, and a $2.8 million Kickback Scheme.  Ecenbarger will appear on Friday's Radio Smart Talk. 

Kids for Cash -- Two Judges, Thousands of Children, and a $2.8 million Kickback Scheme is November's witf/Midtown Scholar Bookstore Pick-of-the-Month. 

Ecenbarger will appear at Midtown Scholar Book Sunday, November 11 at 7 p.m. to discuss the book and the kids for cash case.

Listen to the program:


William Ecenbarger, author of "Kids for Cash -- Two Judges, Thousands of Children, and a $2.8 million Kickback Scheme", on Radio Smart Talk.

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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-11-09 09:45

    Email From Tim:

    It seems to me that the corruption in Luzerne County, although worse than in other counties, is not merely a failure of local officials. State officials, from governors to attorneys general to State Police to lawmakers, were not ignorant of corruption in Luzerne County. They looked the other way, and they did not ask federal authorities to assist in cleaning up the swamp.

    Does Bill have any sense that things are changing either in Luzerne County or among state officials?

    P.S. Great book, Bill. It should be required reading in all law schools and high schools.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-11-09 09:46

    Email From Andi

    I would like to take issue with the idea that the junior people were naive enough to believe the judge "knew what he was doing." That is simply a convenient excuse for turning away from something heinous when your job and future career/reputation will be at stake should you speak out. This is the same thing that happened at Penn State when people turned their backs on the victim children. This is a way of life in NEPA, and bleeds into many other parts of the state.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-11-09 09:54

    Email from Jody

    If I am getting this correctly. This case is a failure of many state agencies, police departments and courts. So why is it that some people think that more over site will help. When the courts become corrupt no amount of over site will be enough. The courts in this country have far too much power.

  • JOESCHMOE img 2012-11-09 10:42

    Excellent show. Perhaps Mr. Ecenbarger could investigate how a local case in Dauphin Co. involving Charles KOONS avoided detection while abusing children for many years. Several questions were raised when the case became public, but no followup answers.

  • mattfondel img 2012-11-10 23:20

    While juvenile convictions handed down by The Luzerne County Court System under Conahan's and Ciavarella's reigns were thrown out, there are adults in prison now who had orders issued in their cases by Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella. There are adults convicted of crimes in Luzerne County who were represented by lawyers from Luzerne County's Conflict Counsel Pool who were appointed to their positions by Conahan and Ciavarella when Conahan and Ciavarella were President Judges.

    It is hard to believe that the US Supreme Court would hold that a Court System operating as a Racketeering Enterprise could have afforded anyone a fair and impartial trial.

    In addition to candidates having to pay bribes for teaching jobs in Luzerne County, Bryan Kocis' activities in Luzerne County were an obvious tip off that there was a whole lot not right about Luzerne County.