Expert at Orie trial says that memos were altered
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The three signatures in black ink glided across the screen and stacked on top of a fourth signature written in blue.
They lined up perfectly.
The three black signatures, according to the U.S. Secret Service document examiner, are copies of the blue one.
The problem with that, he continued, is that the original blue signature was written in 2010, but two of the ones in black appear on documents dated in 2006. Those two documents were submitted as evidence by state Sen. Jane Orie during her first trial last year.
"That signature couldn't have been placed on a document from 2006 because it wasn't authored until 2010," said Joseph Stephens.
He was the last witness called by Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus on Thursday, who rested his case on the 13th day of trial.
Ms. Orie, R-McCandless, is charged with 26 counts, including theft of services, ethics act violations and conspiracy for using her legislative staff for political work. She was tried on those initial counts last year, but the case ended in a mistrial on the first full day of deliberations when prosecutors alleged the senator submitted falsified documents during her first trial.
Since that time, Mr. Claus has brought additional charges of perjury and forgery, both stemming from Ms. Orie's testimony during the first trial.
Using a PowerPoint presentation to take the jury through his findings, Mr. Stephens said that the signatures on the two 2006 documents came from a comp-time form submitted by former chief of staff Jamie Pavlot to the state Senate chief clerk's office in January 2010.
He could not, however, say when the documents with the copied signatures were created or who was responsible for making them.
Mr. Stephens also testified about the signature that led to Ms. Orie's mistrial last year -- about which the judge in the case, Jeffrey A. Manning, said, "Ray Charles could see that signature was doctored."
Again, it is Ms. Pavlot's signature, but it appeared to have been cut and pasted from another document introduced by the defense listing the senator's office rules, Mr. Stephens said.
"There are a number of things on here ... to indicate this is not an original signature," he said.
He listed an uneven baseline, that the letter "J" is above the word "witness" to the left, and that there is a loop through the letter "P" in "Pavlot."
"It is my opinion this is not an original signature, and that it was added to this document after," he said.
As part of his review, which took about two months, Mr. Stephens said he reviewed 134 documents, many of them with hand-written directives from Ms. Orie to her individual staffers.
In many of the directives, the senator specifically instructed them to keep campaign and legislative work separate, told them to be vigilant about the policy and reminded them that they cannot take comp time for working political events.
The prosecution contends that the directives were not on the original emails and notes and that they were added later.
At least 18 different inks were used on the handwritten notes, Mr. Stephens said, but, "The majority of the ones with directives were written in the same ink."
For example, the same ink was used in documents from 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, he said. When that happens, "It's typically a sign they may have been added all at the same time later."
Mr. Stephens did confirm for defense attorney William Costopoulos that all of the inks used in the notes were available at the time the documents originated.
Aside from those questions, the defense did not counter much of Mr. Stephens' testimony.
"The overlays are pretty convincing," Mr. Costopoulos said in questioning the man.
During his opening statement, on Feb. 29, Mr. Costopoulos told the jury that someone else forged the documents, though he could not say who or for what purpose.
The first witness called by the defense on Thursday was a certified public accountant and certified fraud examiner.
Kenneth McCrory testified that the commonwealth's procedures used to estimate the state's loss because of Ms. Orie's alleged actions were flawed.
Detective Jackelyn Weibel testified that, based on the estimates provided throughout the trial by the senator's staff regarding the percentage of time they spent on political work, the state lost approximately $34,050.36.
However, Mr. McCrory said that Ms. Weibel's calculations are not based on accepted accounting practice.
"She didn't follow proper procedures," he said. "[The estimates] have to be based on objective data and information, not subjective thoughts.
"In this case, the numbers are vague, and much worse, they're from distant memories." Ms. Weibel also testified that Ms. Orie's pecuniary gain -- in not having to hire campaign staff -- was $341,473.62.
First Published March 16, 2012 12:00 am