DA rebuts Orie appeal

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The Allegheny County district attorney's office Wednesday filed a 98-page brief rebutting point-by-point an appeal filed in April by former Pennsylvania state Sen. Jane Orie on her 2012 public corruption conviction.

Orie's defense attorney, William Costopoulos, alleged a number of problems stemming from her trial before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning and subsequent sentencing on 14 counts, including theft of services, conspiracy, conflict of interest, forgery and tampering with evidence.

Orie, 51, is serving a 21???2- to 10-year prison term at the State Correctional Institution Cambridge Springs. She was charged with using her legislative staff to help run election campaigns for herself and her sister, former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, who was found guilty on similar charges in February. Melvin was sentenced to three years' house arrest last month.

Among the claims raised by Orie's defense:

??? Retrying Orie a second time following a mistrial after the discovery of tainted evidence was a violation of double jeopardy.

??? Several search warrants executed in the case were overbroad.

??? There was not sufficient evidence to support conviction.

??? She should not have been required to pay restitution for the state Senate Republican Caucus legal fees.

??? The DA's office should have been recused from trying the case because of personal animus.

In a summary of his argument filed with the state Superior Court Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Michael W. Streily called Orie's double jeopardy claim frivolous, said the search warrants served on her were all supported by probable cause and said she provided no proof that District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. was out to get her.

"There was absolutely no credible evidence of family animus fueling this prosecution," Mr. Streily wrote. Later he continued, "The problem for appellant is that there was no 'story' of animus, and she concocted this in an effort to derail her prosecution by a very well respected and extremely talented prosecution team."

As for the issue of the mistrial, Mr. Streily said the issue of a possible double jeopardy violation was already addressed by the appellate courts during the pendency of the second trial when Orie took an interlocutory appeal.

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


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