Orie Melvin to pay fines from her pension

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Former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin must pay nearly $128,000 in personal contributions from her pension fund to cover the fines, costs and restitution stemming from her conviction earlier this year on public corruption charges.

The order came as part of a resentencing hearing Tuesday before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester Nauhaus.

Last week, Orie Melvin was sentenced to serve three years' house arrest after she was found guilty in February of six criminal counts, including three felonies. She was also ordered to pay $55,000 in fines.

Judge Nauhaus set a hearing for Tuesday to correct what could have been a technical error in the original sentence. Instead of it being one, three-year period of electronic monitoring as he ordered last week, he set it as three, one-year terms, to run consecutively.

In the end, the sentence still amounts to three years of arrest in her Marshall house.

The total amount Orie Melvin will pay from her pension contributions includes just under $6,500 in costs and restitution assigned to the case of her sister and former judicial secretary, Janine Orie, who was also found guilty as part of the same case.

"Janine is basically impecunious," defense attorney James DePasquale said. "She no longer has a job. She has nothing. Joan is willing, since she has a fund of money, to cover it all."

Mr. DePasquale said his client is attempting to find employment, and if she does, she will request a modification to her one-year sentence of house arrest to allow her to work.

Also, out of the total dollar figure Orie Melvin must pay, $27,375 of that will cover a $25-per-day fee for the electronic monitoring system. Judge Nauhaus ordered that money be put in a reserve, although he said, "If I were to reduce house arrest, that would be paid back."

At the initial sentencing hearing May 7, Judge Nauhaus ordered Orie Melvin to pose for the county photographer, in handcuffs, and have her picture taken. He ordered her to send the image, along with a written apology, to former staffers the prosecution said were victimized by having to campaign for Orie Melvin, as well as to approximately 500 members of the judiciary across the state, who Judge Nauhaus said were "tarnished" by her actions.

On Tuesday, at the resentencing, Judge Nauhaus clarified that the notes of apology cannot be used against Orie Melvin.

"Those letters, and those pictures, may not be used by the government, insofar as evidence is concerned," he said. "That should go without saying."

Despite the caveat, defense attorney Patrick Casey asked Judge Nauhaus to either rescind the apology requirement or stay that part of his client's sentence, saying that it violates her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

"We've already covered the fact it can't be used against her," the judge replied. "She's not doing it voluntarily."

But, Mr. Casey continued, "Coercion to write the letters is what invokes the Fifth Amendment."

Judge Nauhaus repeated that he did not believe the apologies were a problem "unless you want to attack the sentence itself."

Mr. Casey replied, "I do not," noting, though, that his client's appeals related to the jury verdict had not yet begun. "She's a long way from the conclusion of this case."

Judge Nauhaus said he would take the defense request under advisement.

mobilehome - breaking - state

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


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