Gavel Grab

Mixed Verdict in Corruption Trial of Pennsylvania Senator

Pennsylvania state Sen. Jane Orie (photo) was convicted on 14 of 24 criminal counts lodged against her in a public corruption case. She was acquitted on counts relating to her sister, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article.

Sen. Orie had been accused of using state-funded  legislative staff to do campaign work for herself and for her sister. Her first trial was declared a mistrial before it was completed. This week, an Allegheny County jury convicted Orie of 14 counts of theft of services, conflict of interest, and forgery, and the Associated Press reported that “she will likely be forced from the Senate.”

Justice Orie Melvin has not been charged. It was reported earlier that she was the target of a grand jury investigation. There have been calls for her to step aside temporarily from the bench (see Gavel Grab). She has recused herself from criminal cases originating in Allegheny County, where the grand jury sits.

A separate Associated Press article was headlined, “Orie’s Acquittal on Melvin Charges Raises a Question.” It reported that Orie’s acquittal on those counts “raises questions about whether Melvin — who hasn’t been implicated in the illegal campaigning — ever will be charged, and what may happen when a third Orie sister, Janine, is tried months from now on related charges.”

On the witness stand,  Orie “testified that she was innocent of all charges and that any illegal campaign work that had taken place in her office had been done without her knowledge or approval,” according to a summary of the proceedings from Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts. It is a JAS partner and a reform group, and it advocated earlier that Justice Orie Melvin ought to step aside temporarily, or be suspended by the high court.

 

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