State Sen. Jane Orie guilty on 14 counts, acquitted of 10
Sen. Jane Orie leaves the courthouse this evening, after a jury convicted her on 14 out of 24 counts after five days of deliberation.
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An Allegheny County jury convicted state Sen. Jane Orie today of 14 of the 24 counts in her public corruption trial and acquitted the McCandless Republican of others after five days of deliberation.
The jury found Ms. Orie guilty of multiple counts of theft of services, conflict of interest, ethics violations, tampering with evidence and forgery, and a single count of conspiracy.
Ms. Orie was found not guilty of counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and election code violations. The jury also found her not guilty on counts related to her sister, state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.
The guilty verdicts jeopardize her seat in Harrisburg and her state pension.
The jury of seven women and five men began deliberating Thursday afternoon. They have been sequestered since getting the case.
Saturday evening they reported to the judge that they had reached a "serious impasse."
Judge Jeffrey A. Manning instructed them to keep trying and denied a request by defense attorney William Costopoulos for a mistrial.
It appeared Saturday evening that the stress of deliberations was catching up with at least one man -- Juror No. 6 -- who was seen crying at least twice.
But on Sunday the group seemed less tense, and that same juror was seen joking around in the courtyard during a 15-minute afternoon break.
The jury deliberated all day Sunday and much of today, for a total of nearly 50 hours.
Ms. Orie's trial began Feb. 29.
The case went to the jury after 17 days of testimony, including that of 24 current or former Orie staffers who said campaign work often was done in the legislative office -- both for the senator and for her sister, Ms. Orie Melvin.
Ms. Orie also went on trial in February 2011 and the case went to the jury. But on the first full day of deliberations, the prosecution accused the defense of submitting fraudulent documents.
Judge Manning declared a mistrial, and in August, the district attorney's office added the perjury and forgery charges against the senator.
She spent almost three days on the witness stand last week, mostly blaming her former chief of staff, Jamie Pavlot, for any campaign work done on state time.
Ms. Orie is expected to retain her seat on the state Senate until she is sentenced May 21. The frontrunner to replace is her predecessor in the 40th District seat, Melissa Hart.
Ms. Hart, a Republican from Bradford Woods, has been working in law since losing her congressional seat to Democrat Jason Altmire in 2006 but could be returning to government with Ms. Orie's conviction. After Ms. Orie is sentenced or resigns, a special election will be called -- perhaps this summer -- to fill the 2 1/2 years left in her four-year term.
First Published March 26, 2012 10:23 am