Ex-chief of staff for Jane Orie takes stand in corruption trial of Justice Joan Orie Melvin

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The case against suspended state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin and her sister, Janine Orie, will resume tomorrow with one of the key witnesses against them on cross-examination.

Jamie Pavlot, the former chief of staff for now imprisoned state Sen. Jane Orie, was on the stand most of the day Monday before the court session ended just after 4 p.m.

Justice Orie Melvin and Janine Orie, who worked as her administrative assistant, are accused of using judicial and legislative staff to campaign for the justice for the state Supreme Court in 2003 and 2009.

Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus said he may have a few additional questions for Ms. Pavlot before cross-examination begins Tuesday morning.

Ms. Pavlot, who has immunity from prosecution, testified that on Nov. 1, 2009, she removed two boxes of political materials from the senator's office three days after a complaint was made about campaign work being done there.

After that, she said she received a phone call from Jane Orie with Justice Orie Melvin on the line, as well.

Each of the women instructed Ms. Pavlot to remove any political materials about themselves from the boxes.

"I said, 'OK,' but I didn't do it," Ms. Pavlot said. "They both spoke the words to me."

Ms. Pavlot testified that she and other staffers for the legislative office often received compensatory time for doing campaign work.

Then-Superior Court Judge Orie Melvin did not have a local person to handle fundraising for her 2009 campaign for Supreme Court, Ms. Pavlot said. She and another senate staffer, Joshua Dott, handled that function, she said.

Among the campaign work Ms. Pavlot talked about was collecting nominating petition signatures, working election day polls and preparing fundraising invitations.

"Did that take time out of your workday?" Mr. Claus asked.

"Sure it did," Ms. Pavlot answered. "I had to stop what I was doing and work on this."

Justice Orie Melvin and Janine Orie are on trial before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus. The case began Friday.

Justice Orie Melvin is charged with seven counts, including official oppression, theft of services and conspiracy.

Prosecutors say she used her judicial staff, as well as Jane Orie's legislative to run for the high court in 2003 and 2009.

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Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620. First Published January 28, 2013 12:30 AM


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