Orie attorney: Latest charges 'vindictive'
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The attorney for state Sen. Jane Orie on Tuesday called the new charges filed against her a "vindictive maneuver" designed to influence his client's pending appeal before the state Superior Court.
Ms. Orie went on trial in February on charges that she misused her public office, staff and resources to perform campaign work. The case ended with a mistrial when the prosecution presented evidence that documents submitted by the defense had been doctored.
The Allegheny County district attorney's office plans to retry the case, but Ms. Orie's attorney, William Costopoulos, filed an appeal, claiming that his client cannot be retried based on double jeopardy.
Mr. Costopoulos said in an emailed statement that all of the relevant factual allegations were before Ms. Orie's jury during her first trial. He called the timing of the new charges "suspicious."
In the affidavit of probable cause filed Monday, the Allegheny County District Attorney's office accuses Ms. Orie, R-McCandless, of forgery, perjury, obstruction and tampering with evidence. The office wants to use the new evidence in the previous case and is considering whether to try all of the charges at once.
The district attorney's office said that the affidavit lays out new "fraud-related crimes" that are different from the original case.
"However, the roles of the persons who had possession of these documents, which were altered before being admitted into evidence, is still being developed," said spokesman Mike Manko in an emailed statement. "Since this is considered an ongoing investigation, it would not be appropriate to comment any further."
In the meantime, the district attorney's office on Tuesday filed notice with the defense and Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning that it intends to use the evidence contained in the new charges against Ms. Orie in the retrial of both her and her sister, Janine Orie.
That retrial is scheduled for Oct. 3.
According to the filing, the prosecution believes that evidence from the new case -- such as the forgeries and perjury -- bear upon the defendants' motive.
Specifically, the motion refers to documents the prosecution alleges Jane Orie doctored and submitted as evidence during the first trial, as well as claims that she had members of her Senate staff scan thousands of pages of documents to help prepare her defense.
With relation to Janine Orie, the notice alleges that she, too, "retained the authority and ability to direct Senate staffers to handle and organize documents prepared for the criminal defense of both defendants."
The forged documents, the prosecution said, benefited both defendants "by appearing to discredit key Commonwealth witnesses."
As the second case moves forward, each side will have to make a tactical decision as to whether they want the two cases to be joined together or tried separately.
University of Pittsburgh law professor John Burkoff said it will be a tough decision.
For the prosecutors, trying the two cases separately would allow them to have two bites at the apple. If they lose the retrial, they could still win on the new case if it goes to trial, Mr. Burkoff said.
But, using the evidence of the new case in conjunction with the first in a single trial could heavily influence jurors and sway their opinion on the original charges.
For the defense, if the trials are separate, and there's an acquittal on the original case, "you still have a second trial with equal or worse charges," Mr. Burkoff said.
First Published August 31, 2011 12:00 am