Orie objects to repaying Pa. Senate caucus

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The attorney representing former state Sen. Jane Orie said in a court filing Thursday that the commonwealth's request that she repay about $1.3 million used by the Senate Republican Caucus to defend itself during the investigation was "unprecedented."

William Costopoulos told Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning in a brief that in none of the other recent prosecutions for public corruption among sitting state legislators has any prosecutor made a similar request.

He listed the cases against former representatives Mike Veon, Bill DeWeese and John Perzel.

"After extensive research, there is no authority in favor of this commonwealth's unprecedented effort to obtain this money," he told the court. "This effort under this act was not pursued in any other case with any other agency."

In a May 9 filing, Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus asked that the court require Ms. Orie to repay money spent by the caucus to pay the Philadelphia law firm of Conrad O'Brien.

But Mr. Costopoulos argued that nearly all of that $1.3 million was spent by the caucus to defend itself and defend against the DA's efforts to subpoena extensive records in the Senate that were believed to be protected by legislative privilege.

The district attorney's office had no comment on the filing.

Under Senate rules, the caucus is responsible to pay for a sitting member's legal defense during the course of an investigation. Once charges are filed, however, all payments must stop.

Ms. Orie was charged in April 2010 and convicted in March of 14 criminal counts, including five felonies. She will be sentenced by Judge Manning on June 4. The court is expected to conduct a hearing on the requests by the prosecution at that time.

In addition to seeking the $1.3 million, Mr. Claus has also asked that Ms. Orie be required to pay as much as $780,000 in damages related to the pecuniary gain she received for using her legislative staff to run her re-election campaigns.

He also has asked that she be required to forfeit her contributions to her pension, as well as any funds left in her election campaign account.

Mr. Costopoulos has not yet responded to those motions.

state

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620. First Published May 25, 2012 12:00 AM


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