The Allegheny County Common Pleas Court judge overseeing the case against state Sen. Jane Orie ruled Thursday that forged documents submitted during her first trial had to have come from the defense.
Therefore, wrote Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, the defense was responsible for the mistrial, and its argument that a retrial is grounds for double jeopardy is frivolous.
"Allowing a criminal defendant to benefit from engaging in conduct during a trial that results in a mistrial would be a gross miscarriage of justice and her attempt to argue that she is entitled to that outcome renders her appeal frivolous," he wrote.
The judge was addressing an order by the state Superior Court last month requesting that he file a supplemental opinion on the issue. That request came following an order by the state Supreme Court asking the Superior Court to explain why it believed Ms. Orie's appeal was frivolous. When Ms. Orie filed her appeal with the Superior Court, its review was denied.
Ms. Orie is accused of doing political work on state time. Her jury trial, which began in February, ended in a mistrial after prosecutors showed the judge what they believed were forged documents. The judge agreed that the papers were fraudulent and declared a mistrial.
A U.S. Secret Service report submitted to the court late last month concluded that two paper documents and one electronic document admitted as evidence during the trial were forged.
That report does not identify who created the forgeries.
The prosecution contends that they were made by the defense. Ms. Orie's brother, Jack Orie, said in media reports following the mistrial that he believed the prosecution was responsible. Because of those statements, the district attorney's office last month requested a hearing to prove that it was not responsible for the forged documents.
Judge Manning said in his opinion a hearing was not necessary.
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2620.