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Court denies ex-Sen. Orie’s corruption appeal

March 6, 2014 News Extra

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PITTSBURGH — A three-judge state Superior Court panel has rejected former state Sen. Jane Orie’s appeal of her conviction and prison sentence for campaign corruption and for introducing forged evidence, which resulted in a mistrial before she was eventually found guilty.

Orie was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to 2 to 10 years in prison. She was released from prison last month after completing 75 percent of her minimum sentence, under a rule designed to benefit non-violent offenders who are unlikely to commit future crimes.

Her district included southern Butler County.

The appeals panel’s 76-page opinion issued today rejected 10 issues Orie raised, including her claim that Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning improperly declared a mistrial in 2011, when the forged documents were discovered in evidence. Orie argued the second trial that resulted, at which she was convicted, amounted to double jeopardy.

“The admission of the forged documents into evidence was not only a fraud upon the court, but undermined the jury’s fact-finding function, and we agree with Judge Manning there was no other adequate method, except a mistrial, to cure the harm,” the panel ruled.

Orie was convicted of theft of services, conflict of interest, and forgery. The forgery charges stemmed from documents she and Costopoulos introduced at her first trial that were to discredit a witness.

The conviction on the non-forgery charges stemmed from Orie using her state-funded legislative staff to perform campaign work for her.

Orie was acquitted of charges that she ordered her staff to work on the 2003 and 2009 Supreme Court campaigns of her sister, Joan Orie Melvin, who was then a Superior Court judge.

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