Jane Orie sentenced to prison
Former state Sen. Jane Orie was led away from the courtroom just after noon today by deputies with the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office after she was sentenced to spend 2-1/2 to 10 years in state prison for public corruption and forgery.
As one deputy opened a handcuff to place on the wrists of the woman, Judge Jeffrey A. Manning waved him off, instead telling him to allow her to walk freely to the holding cell.
That show of compassion, though, did not stop the judge from ordering that the 50-year-old McCandless Republican immediately be taken into custody today instead of allowing her to self-report as her attorney, William Costopoulos, had requested.
The amount of restitution Orie will have to pay -- including whether she will have to repay the state for her defense -- will be decided within 30 days based on legal briefs not yet submitted.
Orie was convicted in March of five felonies and nine misdemeanor counts, including theft, ethics violations, conspiracy, forgery and tampering with evidence.
Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus, in his argument on sentencing, told the judge that he believed, in this case, that the cover up was worse than the crime.
Orie was charged with forgery after a first trial in early 2011, in which she was accused of using her legislative staff to perform campaign work. That trial came to an abrupt end during the first full day of jury deliberation when prosecutors accused Orie of submitted doctored documents to the court to support her case.
"The sin is overborn by the deflection; the crime overshadowed by the cover up," Judge Manning said.
During his comments to Orie today, Judge Manning called that day, March 3, 2011, "the most disturbing and disheartening" in his 24 years on the bench.
The act of a lawyer and former prosecutor submitting fraudulent exhibits, he said, is the "ultimate lawyer's transgression," which could not be a "more flagrant and disgraceful violation" of the attorney's oath.
Judge Manning acknowledged Orie's decades of public service, as well as nearly 100 letters he received citing her good character.
"But we do not earn credits in life for the good we do to weigh against our misdeeds," he said. "That might well be of value on the final day of judgment, but in this life, we must penalize the wrongdoer to set the standard of conduct for the rest of us."
Mr. Costopoulos said following the hearing that he will appeal the conviction, and top among his issues will be the idea that the office of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. was the entity to prosecute the case.
Orie has contended from the beginning that she was being targeted because of various disagreements on legislative issues with the Zappala family.
Mr. Zappala chose not to make any comment following the hearing.
Orie, when given the chance to speak in court, chose not to. As she was led away, she had tears in her eyes but said nothing.
No one from the Orie family spoke to the media.
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.
First Published June 4, 2012 12:09 am