Builder settles Pa. 'kids for cash' suit for $17M

By the Associated Press | December 16, 2011 | 5:20 PM EST

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — A northeast Pennsylvania 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 lawsuit filed by juveniles who were locked up in youth detention facilities built by his company.

The settlement with Robert K. Mericle (MEHR'-ih-kuhl) and Mericle Construction Inc. was announced Friday by lawyers for the juveniles and their parents. It affects as many as 2,400 plaintiffs.

Prosecutors say Mericle paid kickbacks to a pair of Luzerne County judges who tapped him to build for-profit juvenile detention centers.

Plaintiffs also have sued the judges and the detention centers. Those defendants haven't settled.

The state Supreme Court overturned thousands of juvenile convictions in the wake of the so-called "kids for cash" scandal.

A Mericle attorney says he's "pleased" to conclude the matter.