State Sen. Orie, sister of Supreme Court justice, convicted on political corruption charges

By Jon Campisi | Mar 28, 2012

A state senator from western Pennsylvania, who is the sister of a state Supreme Court justice, was convicted Monday of political corruption charges, local media has reported.

State Sen. Jane Orie, a Republican from a prominent political family who has been an elected representative for 15 years, was convicted on 14 of the 24 criminal charges against her.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that the guilty verdict came after jurors deliberated for five days after three weeks of testimony in what was a retrial on charges related to Orie using her legislative staff to do political work.

Orie was, however, acquitted on charges that she used her taxpayer compensated staff to work on the campaign of her sister, now-Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.

Throughout the case, Orie maintained her innocence and accused Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, a Democrat, of a political witch-hunt.

(The two political families have apparently had some bad blood throughout the years).

In the end, the jury of five men and seven women convicted Orie of forgery for introducing documents with faked signatures as part of her first trial, which ended in a mistrial last spring, the Tribune-Review reported. Orie was acquitted on a perjury charge.

Orie, 50, will remain free on bond but will be under home confinement via electronic court monitoring before her sentencing in late May.

Although Orie was found not guilty of the charges related to her supposedly using legislative staff to do work on her sister’s then-campaign for Supreme Court justice, the high court jurist herself remains under investigation, according to news reports.

Justice Joan Orie Melvin is said to have received notice that prosecutors have opened an investigation into her activities, but the jurist has not been formally charged with any crime as of yet, news reports have stated.

As for Jane Orie, the senator, who will most likely be forced from office given her felony convictions, was also found guilty of theft of services and conflict of interest charges.

Orie, who could face up to seven years in prison on each of the five felony counts out of the 14 total counts contained within her overall conviction, could also lose her state pension.

Prosecutors have been quoted in Pittsburgh media as saying they are unsure as of yet on whether or not they will seek jail time for the senator.

In a joint statement, the Pennsylvania Senate’s president pro tempore, Joe Scarnati, and its majority leader, Dominic Pileggi, who hails from Delaware County, just outside of Philadelphia, said: “Throughout her 15 years of service in the General Assembly, Sen. Jane Orie has worried tirelessly on behalf of her constituents. We thank the men and women on the jury for their service, and we respect their decision.”


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