Former state Sen. Jane Orie will face sentencing today
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Former state Sen. Jane Orie will find out today whether she will go to jail following her conviction on 14 criminal charges.
Ms. Orie will be sentenced this morning by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, the jurist who presided at her two trials. In the first, which ended in a mistrial, she faced campaign corruption charges. In the second, she was convicted of using state employees to do campaign work and of submitting fraudulent documents to the court during the first trial.
Despite the seriousness of the counts on which she was convicted, some observers say Judge Manning might decide on probation rather than incarceration, based on her lack of a criminal history and her background of public service. Legal experts said it is more likely that she will face at least some time behind bars.
Ms. Orie, 50, was found guilty in March of five felonies and nine misdemeanors. The charges, which included theft of services, ethics violations, tampering with evidence and forgery, stemmed from allegations she used her legislative staff to run fundraisers and conduct campaign work. She has claimed the charges were politically motivated.
The statutory maximum penalty on the five felony counts is 3 1/2 to seven years in prison. Someone sentenced to less than two years' incarceration can serve that time in the county jail. Anything longer calls for the sentence to be served in state prison.
Ms. Orie has been temporarily suspended from the practice of law as a result of her conviction.
The state Supreme Court issued the suspension on May 7. Her sister, state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, did not participate in the decision. At the time the justice was herself the target of a grand jury. She has since been charged with nine criminal counts alleging misuse of state resources for campaign purposes.
Ms. Orie also resigned May 21 from the 40th Senatorial District seat she held for more than 10 years. "It has been an honor and a privilege for me to have served in the Senate of Pennsylvania," she wrote in a brief resignation letter.
Voters in the North Hills and parts of southern Butler County will go to the polls Aug. 7 in a special election to replace her. Former U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart of Bradford Woods, who represented the 40th District before her three terms in Congress, is among as many as eight Republicans indicating interest in the seat. Democrat Dan DeMarco, a Ross commissioner who lost to Ms. Orie in 2010, is thought to be his party's likely candidate.
Local officials from both parties will pick their nominees for the chance to complete the final two years of Ms. Orie's term.
Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, whose duties include setting the date for Senate special elections, said he chose the early August date to return representation to residents of the 40th District as soon as possible.
First Published June 4, 2012 12:00 am