Attorney Robert J. Powell, a key figure in the corruption scandal that sent two Luzerne County judges, was released from a Florida halfway house Tuesday, marking the completion of his 18 month prison sentence in connection with the case.
Powell had risen from West Hazleton High School graduate to become a prominent attorney taking on several high profile cases and landing solicitor posts in several local governments before becoming co-owner of PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care, two private, for-profit juvenile centers at the heart of the downfall of then-judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan.
Powell was charged in June of 2009 with failing to report illegal activity by the two judges. He pleaded guilty and cooperated with the investigation, wearing a wire tap during at least one meeting with Conahan and Ciavarella and ultimately testifying at Ciavarella’s trial.
Powell testified that the two judges extorted money in exchange for actions they took on the bench to benefit the juvenile detention and treatment centers, including placement of children deemed delinquent by Ciavarella during his tenure as juvenile court judge. It became known as the “kids for cash” scandal, a label Ciavarella resolutely rejected even while admitting he took money he should not have taken.
As a result of the scandal and the conviction, Powell lost a yacht and private jet, and his law license has been suspended. He also sold his interest in the detention centers.