Orie retrial delayed until Oct. by appeal

Defense appeals corruption case to state high court

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An Allegheny County judge Monday delayed state Sen. Jane Orie's retrial on corruption charges until October after a lawyer for the senator appealed her case to the state Supreme Court.

In the emergency petition for review, lawyer William Costopoulos asked the court to bar Ms. Orie's retrial on the grounds that it would constitute double jeopardy. He also asked the state Supreme Court to review whether Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning erred when he refused to remove himself from hearing the case.

Jury selection for the new trial had been set to begin April 26. Monday, Judge Manning postponed jury selection until Oct. 3.

Ms. Orie, 49, a McCandless Republican, and her sister, Janine Orie, 56, are charged with using public resources and employees in campaigns for the senator and a third sister, state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin. Justice Melvin has not been charged.

Jane and Janine Orie's first trial ended in a mistrial. The trial started in February before Judge Manning. It ran for nearly three weeks, but shortly after the jury began to deliberate, the prosecutor raised concerns about documents entered into evidence by the defense. Judge Manning declared that signatures on the documents were obviously doctored, and after they were reviewed by an expert, the judge ordered a mistrial.

The sisters' new trial was initially scheduled to start April 11, but her lawyer appealed to the state Superior Court, effectively delaying it. The Superior Court denied that appeal, setting the stage for Monday's Supreme Court appeal.

In the appeal, Mr. Costopoulos argues that the forgery allegation had been raised by the prosecutor during the trial, and was thus a factual issue for the jury to consider.

"Although the court stated that the 'forgery' was so readily obvious that even Ray Charles, who was blind and is now dead, could see it, at no time did the Court or the Commonwealth detect this alleged blatant 'forgery' [earlier in the trial]," Mr. Costopoulos wrote.

If Monday's appeal is accepted for review, it would bring the Ories' case before the same court their sister sits on.

In February, when Mr. Costopoulos filed a King's Bench petition seeking an immediate review of Jane Orie's case by the state Supreme Court -- prior to her first trial -- the court rejected the appeal. Justice Melvin recused herself from that decision.

Also Monday, Mr. Costopoulos filed a motion requesting that if Jane Orie's retrial goes forward, all prospective jurors in Allegheny County be considered for inclusion in the jury. Previously, jurors from her legislative district had been excluded.

He filed a second motion requesting that jurors in the retrial be sequestered throughout the proceedings. At the last trial, jurors were sequestered -- put up in a hotel and barred from access to media -- only during deliberations.

Vivian Nereim: vnereim@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1413.


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