Orie may take witness stand Monday in corruption trial

Defense plans for 13 additional witnesses

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State Sen. Jane Orie may take the stand as soon as Monday as the defense begins to wrap up its part of her public corruption trial.

Attorney William Costopoulos told the court Friday afternoon that he has five more fact witnesses and eight additional character witnesses, all of whom he expects to be short, before Ms. Orie will testify.

On Friday, the defense called 10 witnesses, including four people who spoke strictly about the senator's reputation in the community for being a "truthful and law-abiding citizen."

Joe King, president of Pittsburgh Firefighters Local 1, said Ms. Orie's reputation in the firefighting and law-enforcement community is "impeccable" and that she is "highly respected," and former Pittsburgh assistant police chief Therese Rocco said the senator has an "outstanding reputation."

Ms. Orie, R-McCandless, is charged with more than two dozen counts, alleging that she used her legislative staff to do campaign work for both herself and her sister during hours they were being paid by the state. In addition, she is charged with perjury and forgery stemming from her appearance on the stand during her first trial last year.

That case ended in a mistrial when the prosecution presented evidence that some of the exhibits presented by the defense appeared to have been doctored.

The trial this time around, again before Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, began on Feb. 29.

The prosecution rested its case late Thursday.

On Friday morning, one current and one former staff member for Ms. Orie testified that they never performed political work on state time.

Kevin Lee Derr was a staff attorney for Ms. Orie in 2003-04 and 2007-08 at her Harrisburg office.

"Were you ever asked to do campaign work during the legislative day?" Mr. Costopoulos asked.

"Never," Mr. Derr answered. "I never observed anyone doing that."

Jenna Morgan, who continues to work for Ms. Orie in the McKnight Road district office, took over many of the duties of former chief of staff Jamie Pavlot when she transferred to the Cranberry office.

She described the senator's attention to constituent needs as "top-notch," and said she also never saw anyone doing political work in the office.

"Did you ever feel pressured to do campaign work for the senator?" Mr. Costopoulos asked.

"Never. I've never even had a conversation about it or been asked by her," Ms. Morgan replied.

Sometimes, she said, she stuffed envelopes for the senator at her home. Once, though, she declined to work on a phone bank when asked by Ms. Pavlot.

Ms. Morgan said there was no repercussion from her refusal.

"Were you ever fearful of your job?" Mr. Costopoulos asked.

"No," Ms. Morgan said.

Also testifying was Robert A. Glancy III, a general contractor who also served as the chair of the Allegheny County Republican Party several years ago.

He told the jury that he volunteered with Ms. Orie in her re-election bids and knocked on doors, made phone calls, erected large signs and even moved furniture into her campaign office, on the floor above her district legislative office.


Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.


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