The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 30, 2014

Prosecutors: ’Kids for cash’ figure breaches deal


The Associated Press

— SCRANTON — Federal prosecutors said today they are seeking a hearing to determine whether a developer at the center of one of the biggest judicial scandals in U.S. history violated the terms of his plea agreement and committed new crimes while awaiting sentencing.

Robert K. Mericle has failed to live up to his obligations under a plea deal, the U.S. attorney’s office said in court papers filed in Scranton. Prosecutors asked a judge to hold a hearing on the matter.

Federal prosecutors accused two Luzerne County judges of taking more than $2 million in kickbacks from Mericle, the builder of a pair of for-profit youth detention centers. Former Judges Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan are serving lengthy prison sentences for their roles in the “kids for cash” scandal.

Mericle, who pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 26.

Prosecutors did not elaborate on why they believe Mericle has breached his plea deal, or what new crimes he might have committed since pleading guilty. U.S. Attorney Peter Smith declined to comment Thursday. Mericle’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mericle and his company, Wilkes-Barre-based Mericle Construction Inc., agreed to pay more than $17 million to settle a civil lawsuit filed by youth offenders who were locked up in the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention centers.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out thousands of juvenile convictions after the judges were charged in 2009.